NYC Computer Thief Busted Thanks To Social Media

Social media and technology certainly aren’t making things easy for crooks these days.

Social media and technology certainly aren’t making things easy for crooks.  Just two months ago, a MacBook thief was busted after the computer geek he stole from used cloud backup service Backblaze to find video footage that the thief shot of himself dancing, and uploaded it to YouTube.  Now another recovered laptop story is making headlines—when Sean Power’s laptop was stolen last week, he quickly recovered it with a little help from anti-theft software and his Twitter followers.

It all started when O’Reilly author, speaker and startup adviser Sean Power had his laptop stolen in NYC.  He had given the laptop up for lost until, miraculously, anti-theft software Prey contacted him with information about his stolen laptop.  Prey can send victims all sorts of information about their stolen computers including screenshots, webcam photos, location and more.  Sean tweeted out the news to his 12,000 plus followers:

As soon as Sean’s tweet went out, he and his Twitter followers went to work.  Sean discovered a wealth of information from the Prey screenshots.  He saw the Skype account and online banking information of the guy on the laptop and managed to figure out the location of the laptop—Oficina Latina, a tequila bar in NYC—as well as the name of the guy who was using his computer—Paolo Votano.

Sean’s Twitter followers did a little research with our old friend Google and determined that Paolo was one of the co-owners of Oficina Latina, and that therefore it would probably be a good idea to head down to the tequila bar and check things out.  After a long stream of suspenseful tweets and text messages, which you can read in full on Storify, one of Sean’s Twitter followers—Nick Reese—and some random girl who is identified only by the fact that she wore a purple sarong managed to recapture the laptop and get it back to Sean, who couldn’t head down to Oficina Latina himself because he was in Canada at the time.

Why didn’t the police get involved?  Sean tried to call the police but they said that they couldn’t go down to the scene because Sean never filed an official police report about the stolen laptop.  In the end, Paolo Votano handed over the laptop, apologized profusely, and Sean and his computer were reunited.  It should be noted that Sean never did file a report against the now infamous Paolo.  He said on Twitter, “There are two sides to every story” and, “I’m not about to accuse anyone of anything.  I’d rather forget that place exists and just move on.”

So there you have it—the story of how one man managed to track and recover his stolen laptop from hundreds of miles away, with the help of Twitter.

Just like in the previous case in which the dancing thief was busted thanks to Backblaze, a lot of people suspected that Sean Power’s experience was a hoax—a viral campaign for Prey.  However, Sean denies the accusations.  He tweeted, “I have no affiliation with Prey.  There are quite a few people that know my word is bond and will speak to that effect on my behalf.”

What do you think about Sean Power’s story?  Does it sound to good to be true?  Do you know of anyone who has recovered stolen property using anti-theft software or social media?  Let us know in the comments below.

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.