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Padlocks Off iPads? 3 Men Plead Not Guilty in Del Mar Heights School Theft

Gang connections seen in North County electronics spree with losses hitting $250,000, say officials.

DEL MAR, CA -- Is the Great North County iPad Heist finally over?

Three Riverside County men accused in the theft of 29 iPads and other electronics from Del Mar Heights Elementary School pleaded not guilty Friday to burglary and receiving stolen property.

Trevor J. Williams, 21, Thomas Earl Burleson, 21, and Eyon Zimmerman, 19, were each ordered held on $300,000 bail.

Williams and Burleson are charged in connection with the burglary at the school in Del Mar. Zimmerman also faces charges related to six other burglaries at schools in San Diego County, said Deputy District Attorney Brendan McHugh.

Burleson faces seven years in prison if convicted, Williams nine years and Zimmerman 13 years.

Williams and Burleson are documented gang members and Zimmerman is a known associate, the prosecutor said.

The charges against the defendants include allegations that the crimes—which began Nov. 18—were committed for the benefit of a gang, according to McHugh. Losses so far total $250,000, he said.

He said the defendants are also under investigation for break-ins in other Southern California counties, including Orange and Los Angeles counties. More arrests are possible, McHugh said.

In December, Cardiff Elementary School reported the loss of 12 iPads from a classroom cabinet. A day later, another dozen were stolen from another Encinitas elementary school. And in mid-January, a third local school was victimized, with someone taking five iPads from a locked cabinet.

Citing the the District Attorney’s Office, U-T San Diego reported that 123 iPads and 115 laptop computers have been stolen from schools around the county since Nov. 18.

“Among the schools hit: El Camino Creek Elementary, Cardiff Elementary, Lakeside Middle School and Lakeside Farms Elementary,” said a U-T report Friday.

The defendants were arrested Wednesday at a Temecula-area Border Patrol checkpoint. The iPads stolen from the Del Mar school earlier that morning or the night before were recovered from the defendants' car, along with a laptop computer, bolt cutters and a projector, McHugh said.

A readiness conference is scheduled Feb. 13 and a preliminary hearing for Feb. 15.

—City News Service contributed to this report.

doug February 03, 2013 at 12:43 AM
You're exactly correct Jay, for this country to start to move forward, white collar crime needs to be treated much more severly with "real" punishments, including RICO-like confiscation of all family and/or associates assets and lengthy prison time or in the worst cases the death penalty. These "idiots" that stole from the schools also deserve lenthy time in prison.
Jay Berman February 03, 2013 at 12:53 AM
You can probably take down half of congress on RICO charges ....
Marcheal Gideon February 03, 2013 at 03:24 AM
This isn't the middle east.
Marcheal Gideon February 03, 2013 at 03:25 AM
Well people in prison hate thieves so I guess they will have a warm welcoming.
Daniel Woolfolk February 04, 2013 at 07:55 AM
I deleted two comments from a user for advocating violence against the accused. I also suspended his (or her) account for racist comments on another Patch site. If anyone needs a reminder, here are our Terms of Use: http://encinitas.patch.com/terms I appreciate other commenters for keeping it civil.

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