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Burglars Caught after Using Facebook to Help Plan Crime

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July 20, 2012
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Burglars Caught after Using Facebook to Help Plan Crime

With well over 800 million reported users and a $5 billion IPO (Initial Public Offering) under its belt, Facebook continues to grab headlines – many of them regarding the performance of Facebook shares. In fact, the stock has yet to match its expectations, closing yesterday at $28.25, or 26% off its IPO offering price of $38 – and that’s after all the confusion, frustration, and attendant lawsuits following the IPO itself. But Facebook also figures largely in news articles about what not to share on social media, unless you want to come home to a ransacked house and missing cash, jewelry, and electronics. That’s because the bad guys are also cyber-savvy, and when we broadcast our plans to our friends, and their friends, and their friends’ friends, bad things can happen. This recent article on burglar behavior and social media in Park Ridge, New Jersey tells a cautionary tale.

Police have arrested a pair of siblings who allegedly broke into a home after using Facebook to make sure it was empty. Nicole Mineo showed CBS 2’s Dave Carlin the broken basement door from the March 12 burglary of her family’s Park Ridge home. “They took both of our Apple computers. And from my room they took my entire jewelry box,” she said.

How It Happened

Police credit Mineo for uncovering the clues that led investigators right to brother and sister suspects Michael and Kimberly Edgerton. “Without that information this case may not have been solved,” said Sgt. James Babcock of the Park Ridge Police Department. Mineo recalled a strange conversation with Kimberly on Facebook on the day of the burglary, in which she was asked about her family’s whereabouts. “It was just too fishy, all the questions she was asking me,” she said. “Maybe I did feed her too much information about where my family was, but then again I’m not too hard on myself because I thought they were close friends.”

Facebook Tip also Helped Solve the Crime

Acting on that tip, police went to the home Kimberly and Michael share with their mother and found an earring that Nicole identified as hers. The brother and sister were arrested soon after. Neighbors said Michael recently completed substance abuse treatment. He’s still in jail, but his sister was out on bond. She’s described as a charming stay-at-home mom with two young kids.

A Hard Lesson Learned – and a Police Warning

With the stolen items in evidence, the victims lost not only property but lifelong friendships. “It’s just weird to think people you let into your life for years would do something like this,” Mineo said. “Desperate people do desperate things. I’ll forgive them because I was raised to forgive people.” Mineo told Carlin she planned to reassess every friend on Facebook as she wonders if she really knows them. The Edgerton’s are charged with burglary and receiving stolen property. Park Ridge Police Capt. Joseph Rampolla warned that criminals use Facebook and other social media to find victims. “When you utilize social networking sites, be aware that there are people out there that can utilize them, and you can potentially be victimized by other acquaintances on the Internet,” he said.

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