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More than 100 Apple Store customers are victims of follow-away burglaries in L.A. region

A group of thieves has been taking a big bite out of Apple Store customers by purloining computers in more than 100 "follow away" burglaries across the region, authorities said.

Last month, the Orange County district attorney's office charged three Los Angeles residents -- Garzon Diaz, Louis Lopez and John Rodriguez -- with burglary and grand theft in connection with 28 cases in which thieves broke into vehicles and stole computers from customers who had visited Apple retail stores.

Manhattan Beach Police Sgt. Brian Brown said Tuesday that detectives were continuing their investigation into 15 similar cases since September in which laptops and desktop computers were stolen from vehicles of customers of the Apple Store at the Village Mall on Sepulveda Boulevard.

The suspects sought by Manhattan Beach police had a specific method of operation, Brown said. They stake out an Apple store and choose their target. Then they follow their prospective victims when they drive to another shop or a parking spot near their home. If computers are left unattended inside the vehicle, the thieves strike.

His department issued a warning to consumers Tuesday not to leave computers or other expensive items in their vehicles in plain view.

"It's a highly preventable crime if people don't leave computers in their cars," Brown said.

But law enforcement officials said despite the arrests in Orange County, they believe these follow-away burglaries are the work of a larger ring that has taken more than 100 computers in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties.

"We are looking into whether all cases are connected to the same crime ring," said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.

The suspects who were charged in the Orange County cases were caught when they tried to break into a car with a computer purchased by an undercover police officer at the Apple Store at the Shops at Mission Viejo. The cases in that series of crimes began in December 2008.

None of the computers have been recovered by Orange County authorities, suggesting "they are being shipped out of the country or fenced right away," Amormino said. 

Amormino said he had heard of similar cases in Los Angeles County including Glendale and in Ventura County, and said investigators were comparing notes.

He said law enforcement officials from around the region would be meeting "to compare notes about the possibility they are dealing with a larger ring."

-- Andrew Blankstein

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Comments () | Archives (29)

This would never happen with Windows PCs.

I find this type of article to to be very helpful. It's not alarmist, but informative. I frequently shop at the Apple Store in Santa Monica and I now know to be extra aware of my surroundings. If I'd been one of the hundred who were burglarized (particularly #'s 91, 92, 93, etc...), I'd be VERY bummed that the police hadn't used the media sooner to get this information out to the public.

i live by the manhattan village store and had no idea this was something common. i don't see it in the beach reporter or daily breeze! but anyway, who leaves a laptop or computer in plain sight in the car anyway? i'm not trying to 'blame the victim' but they should probably use a little common sense.

i used to live off of highland and rosecrans and would see cars broken into all the time in that beach parking lot and would find out the thieves only wanted a piddly little navigation device or a cell phone.


Maybe Apple should come out with an iGun!

What does it say about Mac that he needs this explained to him?

Yes, this crime is definitely preventable: no self-respecting thief would ever go to this much trouble to steal a Windows PC!

Remember, they're here to do jobs no one else will do...Si Se Puede!

That's why you always buy the big ticket items last.

Hopefully the judge will throw the book at these guys. They need to be made into an example. Another case that matches the above theft description, possibly related, took place in South Pasadena coming from the Pasadena Apple Store.

Day labor work at Home Depot is slow, this is a good substitute gig.

Watch out, thieves. Steve is gonna get you.

Macs are the newest BMW, PCs are PT Cruisers - 2000 model. Comparing the two is silly.

to Spewie.
Wow! way to assume 1) the thiefs are illegal immigrants. 2) all Latinos are prone to steal. 3) All Latinos only hold manual labor jobs. You must be pretty educated. Try some additional courses in "ethnic & racial" understanding.

These guys were smart enough to catch on to people that were dumb enough to make a large purchase, take it to their car and continue shopping. Not only is this careless, but moronic. It doesn't matter what part of L.A. you're in, thieves are EVERYWHERE.

I hope the thieves know that Apple "low-jacks" every computer with a secret inner "id" chip... When someone tries to go online with that computer, it can then "call" Apple and the police. I'm glad Apple is so protective of their customers... Try to disable the chip, no dice Sherlock, it's tied to the special memory diods in the power supply, everything becomes worthless. Thanks Apple ! If you believe any of this, I've got a trainload of hot cabbage to sell you...

Memo to cops: you could have busted the whole ring if you had taken the easy step of installing a tracking device in a computer you let them take. You got the little fish that bit at the small bait.

I was a VICTIM of these guys... possibly. This exact crime took place at the Fry's in Burbank in December 2009. A laptop was purchased and other items, and I was followed almost 4 miles where I made a stop for 30 minutes. Came back to a car missing the trunk items just purchased! A surveillance video shows that 3 guys were involved in the crime. I'm glad this story is getting this much attention. Watch your backs, folks!

it would be nice to see that pc companies and apple, at the time of purchase and with your approval, attach your ID to the serial numbers and machine ID#. In doing so, once anyone, anywhere tries to update that machine's software or firmware, in this case, Apple would know immediately that it's stolen. It's not a fool proof concept, but it would definitely weed out the incompetent thieves.

When you get home and register the machine, this happens. Truth is apple already knows which computer is stolen since the computer information is associated with the specific sale. I wonder what apple knows in regards to any stolen computer that is updated via software updates...

Not to blame the victim but...

Take the stuff directly home. I go straight home after Home Depot, CVS, etc. Your car is not a safe place to leave anything of value.

This must be related to the UCLA study that says legalizing illegal immigrants would help the economy. Buy something, have it stolen, and have to buy another. Three sales: two retail and one for stolen property.

We had the same problem here in South Florida. The police staked out the stores and caught the guys following the customers.

This happened to a co-worker of mine about two months ago. She and her son went to an Apple Store in the San Fernando Valley, then they stopped at the son's house to go get something, and during the five minutes they were in the house, the car window was smashed and the brand new computer was taken. The house was in a cul-de-sac miles away from the Apple Store. Scary!

If you're coming home from shopping, you may want to take a different route home and make sure no one is following you!

HK..............

I'm quite familiar with that Fry's having been there millions of times to get things.

But I'm kinda confused here. Did you store the items in the trunk which you'd locked, then drove the four miles and the thieves then unlocked it or smashed a window to get access? Were the items visible from the outside looking in?

Uhm, I'd think it to be common sense NOT to leave valuables(especially notebooks!) unattended in cars? We're used to this kinda theft in South-Africa. Good luck when you come to watch the world soccer cup!

Remember this rule when reading comments under articles about crime:

When someone starts off a post with, "Not to blame the victim..." they're about to blame the victim.

 
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