Police: Man steals 1,200 empty beverage cans, caught after redemption attempt

Dec. 15 - Judge Mindy Fisk presiding

• The case of Clifford S. Johnson IV, 24, Marion Avenue, Warrensburg, was adjourned to Jan. 12. He is accused of petit larceny, a misdemeanor, based on an incident at about 7 p.m. Nov. 11.

Police said Johnson stole five bags of returnable containers from Direct Deposit, having a value of about $60. According to a statement he made to police, Johnson said he didn't have any money in his pocket so he thought he'd take the containers - so he reached over Direct Deposit's back fence and grabbed the bags, sneaking through various properties back home to Marion Avenue. The next night, according to the confession, he took the bags of cans to Grand Union and deposited 1,200 cans, one by one, into the redemption machines in front of Grand Union.

Meanwhile, Direct Deposit owner Dean Ackley, who is also a town board member, discovered the missing beverage containers, and contacted both the police and the state Attorney General's office.

Ackley then notified stores in the region with redemption operations to watch for an individual seeking to redeem an unusual volume of containers, and Johnson was arrested the next night after he fed containers into the machines in front of the Warrensburg Grand Union.

Although Ackley knows of a youth that assisted him, Johnson told police he wasn't going to "rat anybody out" in admitting any accomplices, according to his confession.

Meanwhile, Ackley learned from an employee at the Attorney General's office that he can seek restitution of $100 to $2,500 per can from the thief under the state's returnable beverage law, and Ackley vowed he'd be seeking the maximum amount, which would represent as much as $3 million in restitution through a civil penalty.

"I'm going to go to the hilt with this," Ackley said. "I'm going to pursue a civil suit."

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