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Gene McCauley

GONZALES — A Prairieville man has been sentenced to eight years in prison but avoided being additionally charged as a habitual offender after he pleaded guilty to a string of car wash burglaries in Ascension Parish.

Prosecutors in Ascension say Gene McCauley, 41, cut through the roofs of the Sail Away Car Wash in Prairieville and the Galvez Carwash in Galvez six times in the first half of 2018 to steal the coins and cash inside the washes' storage rooms.

Ascension sheriff's deputies say they caught McCauley while he was on the roof of the Galvez Carwash about 5 a.m. May 31, 2018, after being called out the operation on La. 42 by a burglar alarm.

Before McCauley emerged on the roof, deputies said at the time that they could hear a grinder whining away inside the car wash storage room as he tried to break open a coin box.

In a plea deal, McCauley, 37225 Charlotte Ave., pleaded guilty to six counts of simple burglary in connection with the car wash break-ins.

Assistant District Attorney Phil Maples also agreed to drop 12 other counts of theft and criminal damage to property, court filings show.

Twenty-third Judicial District Judge Thomas Kliebert Jr. accepted McCauley's guilty plea and handed down the sentence Monday.

Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.