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‘Inside job’ suspected in campus felonies

Keys were used to commit a slew of crimes that resulted in missing property to the tune of thousands of dollars.

By Annette M. Lesure, Staff Writer

In a month’s long investigation, Valley College Sheriff’s Department is still attempting to pin down suspects for the theft of thousands of dollars of high-tech equipment.

Some of the hardware stolen included Chrome Books and a customized MacBook Pro valued at around $6,000. While the campus’ Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident, the school is focused on modernizing the door locks to prevent future crimes according to Valley President Barry Gribbons. He was unsure of the total dollar amount lost.

Eric Swelstad, Media Arts Department Chair, had his MacBook Pro stolen in July. The computer was specifically tailored for the department. Swelstad said the device was purchased in May using “taxpayer dollars via a Career Transfer grant.”

“Somebody had a key and got in because there was no forced entry and took my [MacBook Pro] laptop,” said Swelstad. “It is spooky and very frustrating because it’s an expensive item, and we work with these people. These are people we trust. It’s definitely an inside job.”

John Hooker, supervisor of the mailroom at the Administration and Career Advancement building, had boxes of electronics and three identical MacBook Pro laptops in his office the day of the theft. The perpetrators managed to take Swelstad’s laptop that was at the top of a stack, as Sheriffs believe someone startled the thieves away.

Hooker, who had been away from the campus for a few days when the crime occurred, reported the missing laptop in early July. IT programmed the stolen laptops with a message that reads: ‘Please return to Valley College’ when opened. Stolen computers typically have hard drives removed and erased, rendering them impossible to track.

“Bio had computers stolen too,” said Hooker. “The [Allied Health and Sciences Center] building was left open because of the air duct cleaning they were doing. Someone walked into the secure lab that was left open and took the keys and then got the computers. I don’t know if they were desktops or laptops; all I know is that there were nine computers taken from there.”

As Valley continues to renovate, new door- lock technology will be used to secure new buildings and transform old ones.

“We are looking into a long term project of converting to electronic locks,” said President Gribbons. “With changing to electronic locks, one has the benefit of being able to manage who has access to unlocking and locking doors more easily. With the number of doors on campus, that would be a costly and long-term project.”

While LACCD’s Deputy Felix refrained from commenting about the on-going case, he said that the department would make every attempt to help out newly appointed Sheriff’s Detective Noe Ramos, who was recently made aware of the break-ins.

Sheriffs continue to secure the campus with active patrolling, as they proceed to investigate.


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