St. Tammany detectives bust air compressor burglary ring

Updated: Feb. 3, 2017 at 8:16 PM CST
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Gary Mucha, suspect in gas station coin-operated air compressor burglaries (Source: Harrison...
Gary Mucha, suspect in gas station coin-operated air compressor burglaries (Source: Harrison County Jail)

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's deputies say they've cracked a theft ring behind 49 coin-operated air compressor burglaries at gas stations in three states.

They've arrested two suspects and issued warrants for a female suspect.

The St. Tammany Sheriff's office launched the investigation in late December of 2016 when it received reports of burglaries of coin-operated air compressor units as several local gas stations. 
Detectives say they quickly realized it was part of a much bigger operation.

Surveillance video from one of the crimes showed a green, Chevrolet Tahoe with two men inside. The video revealed how the men used a cutting torch to break into the units and take the money inside.

Detectives identified the one of the men in the video as Gary Mucha of Gulfport, Mississippi.

Investigators say Mucha was arrested Dec. 27, 2016 allegedly as he was caught trying to break into a coin-operated device in St. Martin Parish along with John Middleton and Brandy Johnson.

St. Tammany detectives tracked Mucha down to the Harrison County Jail in Gulfport on January 19, where he had been arrested for burglarizing a coin-operated compressor unit there.

They say Mucha confessed to his involvement in the St. Tammany burglaries. Warrants were issued for his arrest as well as for the arrests of Middleton and Johnson.

Days later, St. Tammany detectives worked with the Harrison County Sheriff's Office to find and arrest John Middleton in Gulfport. They say he also confessed to his part in the St. Tammany burglaries.

Middleton was extradited to St. Tammany  Parish February 2 and booked with multiple counts of felony simple burglary and more.

Mucha is awaiting extradition to face similar counts.

When Johnson is caught, investigators expect to book her in connection with one of the burglaries.

Investigators say a total of $23,520.25 was taken from the machines. Damage caused by the burglaries is estimated to be more than $28,000.

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