Nov. 9, 2012 at 4:49 PM ET
A Seattle resident —recently burgled and hoping to recover his iPad — inadvertently caused the downfall of what the police called a "major stolen property trafficking operation."
The Seattleite, only identified as "victim" in the police report, discovered on Nov. 2 that his iPad had been stolen in a burglary at his place of work. After calling the Seattle Police Department and meeting up with officers, he activated his Find My iPad app.
The app led them to a house on 12th Avenue known to neighbors (including this reporter) for its prominent neon signage and occasional use as a computer repair shop, among other things. When the occupant opened the door, the iPad's owner activated the app's feature that causes the device to emit a noise; tellingly, the sound emanated from within the house.
The person at the door said that they'd purchased the iPad on Craigslist, but as is often the case with such transactions, he couldn't provide any details. Usually that would be the end of the story, with the iPad being returned to its rightful owner, and the other guy left trying to figure out a way to reclaim his money.
But the officers, already familiar with this "repair shop," had an ace up their sleeve.
Several months previously, another local (also anonymous but going by the name Niemcziek on a community blog) was the victim of a burglary, losing a pair of bikes valued at over $10,000. One turned up in Baltimore, where the buyer, suspicious of the bike's provenance, tracked down its real owner and alerted him to the eBay account that had sold it.
Niemcziek recognized a bike and laptop that had been stolen from a friend for sale on the account. He contacted the police, who added his information to a growing mound of evidence surrounding the 12th Avenue house. All that was wanting was for the operation to be caught in the act. And a stolen iPad raising a racket inside the house was just that.
The SPD arrested the occupant who answered the door and acquired a warrant to search the house. Inside, in addition to the junk neighbors noted was always filling the place, they found stolen high-end bikes, laptops and expensive watches, and contraband including methamphetamines.
As of this writing, the investigation is ongoing; boxes and boxes of evidence were taken from the house, and as the police report puts it, "quite a number of items from recent area burglaries" were found within.
No charges have been filed yet against the occupant of the house, who was released shortly after his arrest.
The garage, left, is still sealed with "police line" tape, but there have been no further developments in the case this week, a Seattle Police Department representative told NBC News.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.