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Facebook bandits: Gang of thieves using the site to rob homes busted

September 16, 2010 15:31 IST
Posting your holiday plans on Facebook can be dangerous, as some residents of Nashua, New Hampshire in the United States, recently discovered. The police there have busted a burglary ring that allegedly used the social networking site to pick targets, reported the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Nashua residents Leonardo Barroso (17), Victor Rodriguez (17) and Massachusetts resident Mario Rojas (25) have been arrested for looting between $100,000 and $200,000 worth of goods, reported Fox News.

Nashua Police Captain Ronald Dickerson told the Union Leader that authorities saw an increase in residential burglaries last month, and tallied over 50 break-ins. The department's burglary unit then received a tip off about stolen fireworks, he said.

The investigation led them to the suspects, and the house where the stolen property was stored. Dickerson told the paper that truckloads of stolen items like flat screen television sets, jewelry boxes, cameras, watches, helmets, coin collections, laptops, video games and $8,600 in cash were found. They also recovered National Guard bags, knives, disassembled guns and ammunition taken from a guardsmen volunteer's home, said Fox News.

The police believe the stolen items were obtained during 18 burglaries in the city.

'We know for a fact some of these players were identifying their victims from these social networking sites,' Dickerson told Fox News, and cautioned residents to be wary of what they post online.

In addition to featuring status updates, Facebook includes a feature called Places, which shows the user's location. Privacy advocates have been warning of the dangers of sharing your location publicly. In February, a web site called even collated such data to highlight the risks of such actions.

Detective Dan Archambault, who was investigating the case, however, told that only two of the cases involved Facebook and in both, 'one or two of the suspects were Facebook friends with the respective homeowners. They basically had access to the walls and could read that the families were away on vacation. The information was only available to friends and the Facebook Places feature was not a part of thisÂ… My advice to Facebook users is carefully pick your friends and watch what you post.'

'We've been in contact with the Nashua police, and they confirmed thatÂ… the only Facebook link was that one of those arrested had a Facebook friend who posted about leaving town in the near future (which is why they believe that home was targeted) and it had nothing to do with Facebook Places,' a spokesman for the site told Cnet. 'The police confirmed that the other burglaries had nothing to do with Facebook.'

The three accused reportedly have criminal backgrounds. Rojas, who was held on $25,000 cash bail after being arraigned in Nashua district court on September 3, is being charged with eight counts of burglary and eight counts of unauthorised taking, both class A felonies. Rodriguez and Barroso, both minors, are charged with three and five counts of burglary, with the latter being held at Nashua police department on $5,000 cash pending an arraignment in court, reported Fox News. A class A felony burglary and theft charges are each punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The authorities will work with police departments in the area, some of which have also seen an influx of residential burglaries, to determine if any of the stolen property is connected to crimes there. They anticipate more arrests in the coming weeks.
The Rediff News Bureau