Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Summer Fun: Freon Huffing on the Rise

Freon thefts are reportedly on the rise, but not for re-use or resale. It seems that Freon, or AC refrigerant, can be added to the long list of things that people see fit to huff into their lungs to get high. It reportedly causes an immediate high not unlike alcohol, but the high is so short lived, that users huff repeatedly. Repeated use causes a high that is so intense that users have been known to drop dead on the spot from simply being startled.

Police in Sacramento, Calif., say that last week thieves climbed up the ladder of a local business and ransacked three air-conditioning units for copper and aluminum parts, as well as a Freon fix. Repairs to each unit is expected to run in the tens of thousands of dollars. According to Joe Kessler, owner of McDonald Heating and Air, “It can get you delusional, like sniffing gasoline or paint, any toxic fumes.” Newer units are fitted with a cap that requires a specialized tool to open, but anything over a year old is easy to open and huff. Incidentally, you can have a new secure cap installed on an older unit.

Brent E. Krueger

Brent E. Krueger

Though it may still seem like a lot of trouble, Freon fiends can get around pretty quickly. In 2011 Apple Valley, Minnesota, tried its first case of Freon huffing. Brent E. Krueger, was convicted for inhaling the Freon from five AC units in his neighborhood over the course of only a few nights. He first came to the attention of police in November 2010 when they found him unconscious “slumped over the air-conditioning unit” of a neighbor’s home, “his torso lodged between the unit and the house.” He admitted to inhaling the gas when he came to. On another occasion Krueger was found unconscious in a neighbor’s yard and had to be hospitalized, and on a third occasion he was found between two neighbor’s houses, and again, an ambulance had to be called. Krueger was at one point disoriented enough, that he reportedly entered a neighbor’s home thinking that the police were on their way.

Krueger pleaded guilty and was required to pay his neighbors’ repairs to their AC units, in addition to serving 10 days of community service and taking rehab. Disturbingly enough, since the effects of Freon are known to be short- and long-term brain damage, including memory problems, Krueger was also required to take a cognitive skills evaluation.

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