Friday, January 18, 2008

Stolen laptops, data disks found

Suspect leads police to Election Commission hard drives containing voters' identifications By KATE HOWARD, NICOLE YOUNG and JERRY MANLEY Staff Writers(Tennessean) January 18, 2008 Metro police recovered two stolen laptops at a house in Goodlettsville on Thursday night just hours after recovering the computers' hard drives — containing names and Social Security numbers of 337,000 Davidson County voters — at a coffee bar on Fourth Avenue South. The computers and their disks were found based on information provided by a homeless man who turned himself in Thursday morning and told police he had stolen the machines from the county Election Commission offices on Christmas Eve. The theft worried voters, who feared their identities could be stolen if criminals accessed the information on the laptops. Data being checked Police analysts were examining the disks to determine if the information had been viewed, copied or tampered with, according to police spokesman Don Aaron. That's "not something we can tell in an hour or two. It takes days, but it will be answered in time," Aaron said. Police and Election Commission officials determined that the voter information was on one of the hard drives recovered, Aaron said. Other confiscated hard drives were being examined. The computer parts were recovered from The Muse, formerly known as the Kung Fu Coffeebar, on Fourth Avenue South. Police said the suspect, Robert Osbourne, fenced the computers and other stolen items at what Aaron described as a "rave-type coffee bar." The drives were later removed from the laptop shells. Aaron said no more information will be released about the house where the laptops were found until detectives have time to investigate further. Metro detectives Rick Mavity and Ricky Winfrey were credited with questioning Osbourne and developing information that led to the recovery of the data. The second laptop was not working properly, election commission officials said, but police believe one of the hard drives is from that computer. Dean praises police Mayor Karl Dean called the investigation "great work." Dean said Metro government will still offer a free year of credit monitoring to voters. Additional arrests in the case are expected, Aaron said. Osbourne, 45, is in jail with bail set at $80,000. After Osbourne was questioned, Mavity said the homeless man broke into the election commission by chance and planned to make some money off the stolen laptops.

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