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Family Uses GPS Service to Track Chatty Cell Phone Thief

stealing cell phoneOn September 24th, a burglar broke into the Maryland home of Kari and Derek Fisher, and walked away with a pair of digital cameras, a satellite radio, and Derek's wallet. Had the thief stopped there, he may have gotten away with the crime. Instead, though, he decided to swipe Derek's cell phone, and inadvertently sealed his fate.

Upon discovering the break-in, the Fishers placed a series of understandably frenzied phone calls to the police, credit card companies and their wireless provider, Sprint Nextel. A customer service representative initially suggested that Derek terminate the service on the stolen phone, but Fisher wasn't ready to cut the cord. He asked whether or not the phone could be used to track the criminal, and the representative told him about Sprint's Family Locator Service -- a feature that uses GPS to help parents keep track of their kids. Derek Fisher signed up for a free Family Locator trial, and Kari later called 911. She recalled telling the dispatcher, "Oh, my God, we can see the thief! Send the police!" Several calls later, they reached Detective Daniel Hader, whom they e-mailed screenshots of maps revealing the phone's location. "I thought a gold mine had fallen into my lap," Hader told the Washington Post.

Hader had to jump through some more hoops to locate the exact apartment and to obtain a search warrant, but he was eventually able to pinpoint the thief's whereabouts. On October 5th, police finally arrested 27-year-old Jose Eguizabal-Najera at his apartment, where they found several other stolen items, including a flat-screen TV, expensive bikes, and, of course, Derek's cell phone. The Fishers were delighted to hear of the arrest, but their spirits fell when they saw their phone bill.

A Sprint representative claimed that because the Fishers had never suspended service to the phone, they were still liable for any calls the burglar placed. Over the course of 11 days, Eguizabal-Najera made an incredible 1,000 phone calls, all on the Fishers' dime. Most of the calls were covered under the family's plan, but Kari, as an IRS tax lawyer, insisted that the provider eat the $35 charges out of principle. Eventually, Sprint agreed to waive the bill, allowing the Fishers to savor their victory, and, we'd imagine, put that $35 toward a new guard dog.

Tags: burglary, cellphones, crime, FamilyLocator, GPS, GpsTracking, maryland, police, sprint, stolen, top