September 15, 2023 | NEWS | By Michael Braithwaite
On the morning of Friday, July 7, Nick Rodda began his work for the day at Colorado College’s South Hall, which was undergoing scheduled maintenance. Rodda was working with the campus Facilities Office to upgrade amenities within the dormitory. Little did he know, he would have a front row seat to a remarkable caper.
Rodda is an employee of Collegiate Concepts, which, according to its website, is a “premier MicroFridge© with Safe Plug™ supplier at select colleges and universities across the United States.” As part of CC’s seven-year contract with the company, the maintenance was a routine replacement of old MicroFridge units with new ones.
That morning, Rodda was tasked with placing the old units by North Nevada Ave. in front of the dormitory for a third-party shipper to pick up. But, according to a Colorado Springs Police Department case report obtained by The Catalyst, he left the scene around 4 p.m. after learning that the shipping crew had been delayed until the following morning.
“The shipping company, they were supposed to have a truck come,” said Rodda. “It never did, so we really didn’t have anything to do with [the MicroFridges] until the next morning when the truck was there to load it up.”
Rodda placed 335 units on the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the roadway on Friday. When he showed up early Saturday morning to help the crew take them away, only 223 remained.
Surveillance footage showed why. At about 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, a truck with an attached trailer stopped by the fridges. It then left about 20 minutes later, hauling away an unknown number of units. At 6:04 a.m., a different black pickup carried several other MicroFridges away from the area, only to return about half an hour later and retrieve more.
But despite the Colorado Springs Police Department case report calling the ordeal a “theft,” the reality was not as simple. While CC’s property is considered private, its boundary ends at the sidewalk. Therefore, the grass strip between the walkway and the road is not considered part of campus, and the 112 missing units were legally taken from the area.
“That is like no man’s land,” said CC director of campus safety Cathy Buckley. “That is public property. It is not college property. We couldn’t prosecute.”
Campus safety officers were tasked with tracking down the culprits and kindly asking them to return the units. The suspect with the black pickup truck lived just a few blocks from CC. Campus resource officer Sid Santos gave him a visit.
“I went to the house, I walked down the alley, and I saw in the back of a pickup truck a bunch of the MicroFridges,” said Santos. “And while I was standing there, the owner of the home drove up and asked me what I was doing.”
According to Santos, the suspect complied with the request to give the units back, and even drove their truck around to the front so Collegiate Concepts and CC Facilities could easily pick them up.
The second suspect took a bit more work to find. A campus safety officer saw an advertisement on Facebook Marketplace for units matching the description of the MicroFridges. The posting, titled “Mini Fridge / Freezer / Microwave Combo w/ 2 USB Port and Extra Outlet. ONLY 14 LEFT!!” included the following description (spelling and grammar are verbatim):
“Very clean, gently used units. ONLY 1 POWER OUTLET REQUIRED !!! and you don’t even lose that outlet. The microwave provides power connection to th refrigerator and theres 2 USB ports, for charging your devices, on the front panel. Another feature is the standard 120v power outlet also located on the front panel of the microwave. Extra capacity for beer fridge, insulin storage, drinks, food prep, catering, hobbies, ice packs fruit, separating strong odor foods (garlic, onions, leeks), jello shots, cake storage. Perfect for pool side, dorm, apartment, garage, bar, patio, porch, bedroom, man cave, she shack, shed, boat house, basement, shop, cabin, camper, etc.”
The officer contacted the seller, and Santos was sent to Fountain to meet up with the suspect.
“He took me to the storage unit that [they were] at, and the company rented a U-Haul to pick up the remaining refrigerators,” Santos said. According to him, while the seller advertised only 14 units, they actually had 55 in their possession. Moreover, they were selling the units for far less value than the $400 mark listed in the case report.
Of the 112 MicroFridges originally stolen, campus safety was able to recover 72 and return them to Collegiate Concepts. According to Rodda, this was not the first time that the company had delt with stolen units during replacements, but they had never lost so many at once.
After Collegiate Concepts picks up the old units from CC, they rent them individually to students for the school year at other colleges and universities. But Rodda is not too worried about the loss of the unrecovered units.
“It’s a loss, [but] just the fact that we were able to recover so many of them was helpful,” Rodda said. “In the grand scheme of things, obviously we would’ve liked to have that inventory but it’s not a huge deal just because we’re talking 30 units out of 20,000.”
And for CC campus safety, it gave them the opportunity to put on their detective hats and crack a case that provided both humor and intrigue to the staff.
“For the campus safety officers, it was kind of fun,” Buckley said.