Student linked to HP thefts

By Ethan Frenchman

Police arrested a U of C student in possession of more than 50 laptops and other assorted pieces of electronic equipment as part of a sting operation that also led to the arrest of a local computer shop owner.

Police arrested third-year Walter Ulmer, age 20, on February 17 in connection to a number of Hyde Park–area thefts.

The U of C Police Department (UCPD) responded to a request to check on the “well-being” of the resident of apartment 208 of University Park Condominiums at 1401 East 55th Street.

Upon arrival at 10:15 p.m., officers witnessed Ulmer attempting to flee by jumping out the window. The second-floor apartment is approximately 25 feet above the ground.

Once Ulmer was restrained, the responding officers found numerous pieces of office and electronic equipment in plain view. A search of the location revealed more than 50 laptops as well as computer monitors, CPUs, scanners, PDAs, and iPods, said Chicago Area One Police Sergeant Gregory Jackson.

“Investigation revealed that there were multiple incidents and victims,” said Officer JoAnn Taylor of the Chicago Police Department (CPD).

Questioning of Ulmer and other sources led police to believe the stolen goods might be delivered to the owner of the Apollo Computer Corporation located at 5234 South Blackstone Avenue.

“Undercover officers acted in a ruse to sell the owner stolen items” on February 20, Jackson said.

Police returned to the store around 2:45 p.m. that day with a warrant and arrested the owner, Jiabin Liang. He has been charged with one count of possession of stolen goods.

Ulmer has since been charged with one count of deceptive practices and two counts of mislaid property, both of which are misdemeanors. Taylor said that “felony charges are pending review by the State Attorney’s office.”

In both cases, “police anticipate further charges, which depend on people claiming their items,” Jackson said.

Third-year Le Wang, an acquaintance of Ulmer’s since their first year, said the student was introverted.

“He’s not a very sociable person. He’s a computer nerd,” Wang said. “He downloaded a lot of things over the University network and was given a couple of warnings about that. I assume that everyone has pirated some sort of music or software. It never struck me as a problem.”

Although police refused to characterize the arrests as a potential breakthrough in Hyde Park crime prevention, Jackson said “it appears that this location has been purchasing stolen items.”

Police also would not confirm whether the stolen goods were connected to a spree of local burglaries during December or recent laptop thefts at the Regenstein Library.

Martina Munsters, deputy dean of Students in the University, would not discuss the particulars of the case because of student privacy concerns. She did suggest, however, that the University might pursue disciplinary action.

“If there is a situation where student behavior might be accountable to the civil authorities, then it is highly likely that the University will be pursuing its own disciplinary procedures,” Munsters said.

Police showed the recovered property this morning at the District 2 auditorium at 5101 South Wentworth Avenue.

Items will also be shown on request. Police ask that those trying to reclaim stolen items bring a copy of a relevant police report and a serial number for the items.

The Area 1 commission is seeking the assistance of the general public in connection with the case. If you have been the recent victim of a robbery or burglary, the police ask that you call (312) 747-8382.