High-tech investigation nabs alleged burglar of Steve Jobs' home
Jewelry, computers worth more than $60,000 stolen from Apple co-founder's house
The home of the late Steve Jobs, Apple's iconic co-founder, became one of Palo Alto's latest burglary targets last month when a former San Jose State University cornerback allegedly made off with at least two Apple computers, an iPad, a host of other electronic equipment, jewelry and other personal items from the Waverley Street residence, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.
Kariem McFarlin, 35, of Alameda was arrested Aug. 2 for the burglary, which occurred between the evening of July 17 and the morning of July 18.
As the case files reveal, investigators from the Palo Alto Police Department and the regional Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) Task Force turned to technology to catch McFarlin — using techniques increasingly effective when computers, cell phones and other devices are the target of thieves.
The burglary occurred while the house in the Old Palo Alto neighborhood was unoccupied and undergoing renovation. The general contractor for the renovation discovered the burglary on the morning of July 18.
Among the items reported stolen were two Apple computers, an iPad tablet, a Tiffany platinum and aquamarine necklace valued at $33,000, another Tiffany necklace with diamonds valued at $28,500, a pair of earrings valued at about $3,000, a wallet with credit cards, three iPods, a Ninja Blender, a Sodastream Soda Maker and "Monster Beats by Dr. Dre" headphones, according to the police report.
Investigators relied on search records, serial numbers, IP addresses and social-media sites to track down McFarlin. They learned after contacting Apple that the operator of the stolen iPad was trying to re-install the operating system the morning after the burglary and was connecting to Apple servers through a wireless AT&T connection. They then used the IP address in this connection to link the equipment to two Apple iTunes accounts, one of which belonged to McFarlin.
Between July 24 and 26, investigators tracked down more evidence linking the stolen computers to other IP addresses associated with McFarlin's iTunes accounts. They received search warrants related to his customer accounts and learned from Apple's investigators that McFarlin used the iPad to log on to his iTunes account, according to REACT Agent Marshall Norton's report.
Investigators made further headway on July 29, when they tracked the same iPad to a Comcast IP address associated with a woman living in Alameda County. They then learned that the woman, Jacqueline Richard, was one of McFarlin's "friends" on Facebook. Officers and REACT investigators used this evidence to get a search warrant for McFarlin's Alameda home. They raided the house on Aug. 2 and arrested McFarlin without incident. Norton wrote in the report that while at the house, he observed an iMac on a desk in the kitchen area. The computer's serial number was the same as on the computer that was taken during a burglary.
During his interview with REACT Task Force Agent Tim Crowley, McFarlin allegedly admitted that he stole two iMacs, three iPads, three iPods, an Apple TV, a diamond necklace and earrings and "several other items" found in his house, including Jobs' personal items.
McFarlin explained that he had been homeless and was living on the streets in his car, according to the report. He targeted the house because it appeared to be under construction and dark inside. He parked the car on a side street, approached on foot and climbed the scaffolding to get over the fence surrounding the house.
Once inside the property, he found a key that he used to get into the main house, the report states. He "crept around the house because he was scared someone might be home." But he quickly learned that no one was around because he had made what the report describes as a "considerable amount of noise" and didn't see anyone coming.
He allegedly told investigators that he did not realize whose house he was in until he was inside and he saw a letter addressed to Jobs.
Once inside, McFarlin "rummaged through all of the rooms, removing various computers and camera equipment," according to a report from Palo Alto Detective Sgt. James Reifschneider.
McFarlin threw several furniture cushions over the cyclone fence installed around the house because of renovations and dropped the stolen property on to the cushions to protect the items from breaking, he told investigators.
McFarlin also allegedly sold the stolen jewelry to a seller in Pennsylvania (Palo Alto officers have since identified this seller, who agreed to return the jewelry). He also said he put other stolen items into his storage locker in Alameda. He consented to have the agents search the locker. Inside, they found a wallet containing Steve Jobs' driver's license and credit cards.
McFarlin also allegedly told the police that he had given away two iPads he had stolen, one to his juvenile daughter and another to his friend, Kenneth Kahn. Both Kahn and McFarlin's daughter said during the investigation that they didn't know the items had been stolen and handed them over to the REACT agents.
According to the report, McFarlin also admitted to being involved in other burglaries of private residences in San Francisco. McFarlin admitted to Norton that he had entered about 15 to 20 homes but only stole items from four or five of them, Norton wrote in his report.
At the end of his interview with the REACT agent, McFarlin agreed to write an apology letter, Norton wrote.
"Kariem McFarlin stated he would like to write a letter of apology and authored a one-page letter identifying that he had burglarized the Jobs' home and stolen their property but had done so because he was desperate," Norton wrote.
McFarlin was arraigned on Aug. 7 and is next scheduled to appear in court on Monday, Aug. 20, at which time he is expected to enter a plea. He is facing charges of burglary and selling of stolen property, according to the District Attorney's Office. The maximum sentence he can receive is seven years and eight months.
He is currently being held on $500,000 bail.
The incident is the latest in a long string of burglaries that has hit Palo Alto and other Bay Area cities in recent months. By early May, the city had reported 81 residential burglaries in the first four months of the year, compared to 34 in 2010 and 43 in 2011. The trend seemed to have eased off in April, when the number of reported burglaries dropped to seven. However, three more Palo Alto home burglaries were reported this past weekend, according to a police report.
The troubling trend had prompted the police department to launch a "Lock It or Lose It!" campaign aimed at educating residents on ways to prevent burglaries and detect suspicious behavior.
The department had also added more manpower, including plain-clothes officers, to its burglary-suppression operation, and assigned two day-shift officers to work with burglary detectives specifically on stopping this trend. Police encourage residents to keep their home and car doors and windows locked and to lock their yard gates.
Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.