Laptop Thief Detained Thanks to Social Networking

By Michelle Amodio June 02, 2011

Internet users certainly know how to utilize services for good. At least, one man turned to the Internet and social networking to help find his laptop, which had been stolen.

Unbeknownst to the thief, the laptop, belonging to one Joshua Kaufamn, had been equipped with special security software that managed to snap photos of the perp in the middle of theft. Kaufman had no luck with the local police department, so he started a blog and posted photos of the thief on said blog in an effort to use the masses to catch the guy.

The idea to reach out was pretty successful, as Kaufman’s blog hit BuzzFeed and spread like wildfire amongst Twitter and Tumblr.

“People who followed me on Twitter retweeted it. It got picked up by social media and the press. It went super viral,” he said. On the same day that he posted his website on Twitter, police came calling.

On May 31st, Kaufman updated everyone and said “ARRESTED! An Oakland police officer just called me to let me know that they arrested the guy in my photos! BOOYA! The police used my evidence (email which pointed to a cab service) that he was a driver and tricked him into picking them up. Nice work OPD!”

The resourceful Kaufman used Hidden, an app that starts at $15 a year, which not only locates the missing device, but also collects photos on the other side using the computer’s built-in camera, as well as screenshots of activity on Macs.

Kaufman joins the ranks of other victims who refused to let thieves make a clean getaway, who used the tracking software installed on the devices to lead them to justice.

Kaufman posted several pictures of the alleged thief, who seemed to spend his time in front of the computer sleeping, in bed, signing into his Gmail and deleting Kaufman’s Mac account. The app even captured a picture of the thief driving away with Kaufman’s computer.

Oakland Police Department’s media relations officer, Holly Joshi, told Digital Life that it was “human error” that delayed Kaufman’s case. The theft investigations unit handles 2,400 reports a month amongst three investigators, and that Kaufman’s report had been erroneously filed rather than put in the second priority category, which assigns investigators for follow up when evidence is present.

The suspect, Muthanna Aldebashi, 27, a limousine and cabdriver who lives in Alameda, was arrested about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. The laptop was recovered at his home.

Officer Rob Rosin said that after his arrest on suspicion of possessing stolen property, Aldebashi claimed the computer had been given to him as a gift. Aldebashi told police that he thought it may have been stolen and that he should have known better than to take it. He made no attempt to try to find out who the owner was.

The laptop was returned to Kaufman on Wednesday morning.

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Michelle Amodio is a TechZone360 contributor. She has helped promote companies and groups in all industries, from technology to banking to professional roller derby. She holds a bachelor's degree in Writing from Endicott College and currently works in marketing, journalism, and public relations as a freelancer.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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