Sometimes, to catch a criminal you have to think like one. That is exactly what Ambre Boroughs did after finding her laptop stolen from her checked bag on a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Charleston, South Carolina–and it paid off. She has been reunited with her laptop and helped Chicago detectives dismantle a theft ring.
Boroughs made her first mistake when she opted to take advantage of Southwest’s free checked baggage policy and check in her new HP laptop at Chicago’s Midway Airport. Never check your laptop under any circumstance. If it does not get stolen, there is a good chance it will get smashed. Even if you are told there is no overhead space left onboard, just put your laptop and other valuable electronic devices under the seat in front of you.
When Boroughs landed in Charleston, her bag was first off the belt, but it felt strangely light. Upon examination, Boroughs found the bag was empty. She contacted Southwest staff who were indifferent to her plight, flippantly telling her that Southwest’s Contract of Carriage does not cover checked laptops and that she was foolish to check it in the first place. Never mind the fact that Southwest Airlines check-in staff at Midway asked Boroughs if she had a laptop in her checked bag and she said yes.
While essentially told that her laptop was gone forever, Boroughs was not one to give up and had a hunch that paid off. The following day she logged on to the Craigslist Chicago page to see if someone was trying to sell her laptop. Lo and behold, she found it. She knew it was hers because there were pictures and the machine had a sticker that she had placed on it and was visible in the pictures.
She reached out to the seller who quickly responded, asking Boroughs which laptop she wanted. Turns out, the gentleman had 15 laptops for sale. Boroughs contacted the Chicago PD and they sent someone to the house (less than a mile from Chicago Midway) posing as Boroughs. Three arrests were made (the suspects were not Southwest employees and it is not clear if they worked at Midway Airport [wouldn’t it be rich if they were TSA baggage screeners?]) and the stolen property, including Boroughs’ laptop, was recovered.
All’s well that ends well? Not really. Boroughs’ computer was wiped clean and she had not backed up her files, so she lost her documents and pictures, arguably much more valuable than the laptop itself. And six months later, none of the other owners have been found. Two of the suspects have not faced any charges and the third was only charged with a misdemeanor count of theft of lost or mislaid property. He pleaded guilty.
Nevertheless, I am impressed by Boroughs’ ingenuity and commend her for a hunch that paid off. I trust that none of you will ever find yourselves in a situation in which you have to play detective like Boroughs did. Remember, electronic devices stay with you at all times.