What a story.
The stuff has become so valuable that we will soon start seeing R-12 stolen from parked cars instead of stereos.
Different story, but includes both thievery and AC:
Years ago, I sent my Audi to a local repair shop that a friend had recommended for a new steering rack (in the winter). Normally, I do my own repairs, but that is a big job, and it was winter, and snowy, and I had no garage to work in. It was a 'German-speciality' establishment, and I found it to be rather pricey and snobby, with a fancy waiting room and such.
Spring rolls around, and I discovered that the AC was not working.
I had not looked at it yet, but I mentioned the problem to the same friend, who commented that his Audi now had dead AC as well, and we mutually cursed those Audi engineers [again]...
Well, I dig into it, and after a couple of hours of head-scatching, I located a strange mass of electrical tape on one of the harnesses. Cut it open, and [you guessed it!], 2 disconnected connectors appeared!
Freon was 99cents a can then. Today, the same scamsters would have certainly sent me away with a vacuum to boot!
1986 300E 5-Speed 240k mi.