Air-Conditioner Thief Gets Extra Time ... for Pollution By releasing Freon, he violated Clean Air Act By John Johnson, Newser Staff Posted Jun 25, 2014 6:42 PM CDT 33 comments Comments Martin Eldridge. (Columbus police) (Newser) – When Martin Eldridge and his pals started stealing air-conditioning units around Columbus, Ohio, last year, it's a safe bet they didn't factor the Clean Air Act into their possible punishment. Big mistake: Because when Eldridge and company cut the tubing that connected the units to their buildings, they released the refrigerant commonly known as Freon into the air, reports the Columbus Dispatch. And that, budding A-C thieves, is a violation of the Act because Freon is closely regulated given its threat to the ozone layer. The upshot is that Eldridge pleaded guilty yesterday to the environmental pollution and agreed to a plea of 31 months in federal prison and 200 hours of community service, reports NBC News. That is in addition to the theft charges, though Eldridge may be allowed to serve the two sentences concurrently when he is formally sentenced. Authorities say the A-C bandits stole about 50 units over a three-month span last year.