The woman, who spoke anonymously to NBC, uncovered the man’s IP address to figure out his location after he sent her nude photos he'd taken off her computer
•Security cameras captured a thief stealing a woman's laptop at Dulles International Airport
•Transit police were not able to make an arrest because they lacked a warrant, stalling the investigation
•The woman tracked the man herself using his IP address after he tried to blackmail her via Instagram
A woman whose laptop was stolen at Dulles International Airport took matters into her own hands to get it back after the thief tried to blackmail her.
According to NBC4 Washington, the woman — who is referred to as “Jane” since she spoke to the outlet on the condition of anonymity — was flying home for the holidays when her backpack, which contained her 10-year-old laptop, was swiped.
Jane reported the crime to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), who found footage of the robbery.
NBC4 says the police report revealed that the person seen stealing the backpack in surveillance footage was identified as an employee of Smarte Carte, a company that provides passengers with luggage carts at the airport. However, Jane told the news outlet, the MWAA said they needed to continue the investigation to obtain a search warrant, so the suspect wasn’t arrested and was allowed to continue working.
When Jane woke up one morning to a message from an anonymous Instagram account, which contained a nude photo of herself, she knew it had to have been sent by the laptop thief, since it was part of an art project she’d saved on the device.
According to NBC4, Jane was told by the MWAA investigator assigned to her case that she could respond if she felt comfortable doing so.
“I really didn’t want to, but I wanted to get my computer back,” she said.
When Jane replied to the message, the Instagram user who’d contacted her said he wanted more photos — and $3,000.
“I think he just saw an opportunity to try and blackmail me,” she said. “I was very upset. I’d never been in a situation like this before.”
Jane sprang into action, and used an online search tool to uncover the man’s IP address and GPS coordinates. The IP address was registered in Springfield, Virginia.
Police were able to use that information to conduct surveillance and ultimately obtain a search warrant. The suspect was finally arrested, and Jane was reunited with her laptop (though its contents had been erased).
“For an investigative process to play out in a lawful way, you have to be very methodical,” MWAA spokesperson Rob Yingling told NBC4. “There's a lot of inner[sic] agency work that also takes place, because this investigation left the campus of the airport.”
PEOPLE reached out to Yingling, who declined to comment further on the case, but confirmed the accuracy of his statements.
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Jane also sued the suspect in small claims court, and the case was eventually settled.
The suspect pleaded guilty to petit larceny and received 12 months of probation. His employment with Smarte Carte was terminated when MWAA suspended his security badge.
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