Crime

Document: Stolen Clint ISD iPads flagged at pawn shop; Facebook helped ID suspect

CLINT, Texas - Detectives looking into the theft of nearly 150 iPads belonging to the Clint Independent School District were led to the district employee suspected of theft when some of the stolen tablets were flagged at a pawn shop, a criminal complaint obtained by ABC-7 states. 

Last week, detectives with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office arrested 37-year-old Philip Andrew Acosta, the Chief Technology Officer for the Department of Technology and Information Services for Clint ISD, and charged him with theft of property. Court documents state the theft of 132 iPad and iPad Airs resulted in a loss of $64,656 to Clint ISD taxpayers.

The investigation began when a stolen iPad was flagged at a pawn shop. Deputies contacted the woman who tried to pawn it and she said she bought it from a man named Paul Lopez  who used the apps Let Go and Offer Up to sell the tablets.

The criminal complaint states the woman learned the real identity of Paul Lopez when she stumbled onto a photo of him on Facebook. The man in the photo was was wearing a race registration form with his real name, Philip Acosta, the document states. The woman Googled "Philip Acosta" and learned he was the chief information technology officer at Clint ISD. 

Investigators connected with several other people who had purchased iPads from Paul Lopez and learned he would sell them for as low as $40, the criminal complaint states. The buyers would then resell the stolen tablets for up to $100, making a profit at the expense of district taxpayers. 

A person who allegedly bought devices from Acosta told investigators she and her boyfriend had probably purchased 200 iPads from "Paul" starting in August 2017, not knowing they were stolen. Acosta would allegedly tell buyers he worked at Clint ISD and would buy the district tablets at auction, the criminal complaint states.

Another buyer told detectives some of the iPads purchased from Acosta were locked with a Clint ISD code.  Acosta would allegedly get the serial number from the buyer and unlock the tablets remotely, the criminal complaint states. 

During their investigation, detectives spoke with Clint ISD Superintendent Juan Martinez. The superintendent said he did not remember any auction in which district iPads were sold. Martinez told investigators Acosta "had the capability to track electronic equipment but was unable to locate more than 120 plus IPads stolen from Horizon High School and Clint High School." The court document further states Martinez "trusted the Defendant and that the Defendant had unrestricted access to everything involving the school's tecnhology."

Acosta was in charge of purchasing technology for the entire school district. 

A search warrant was obtained for Acosta's residence and vehicle on March 15, 2018, resulting in the discovery of several Clint ISD stolen tablets, investigators said.  Approximately 100 IPads have been recovered by investigators, all linked to Acosta, the sheriff's office said. 

Acosta was booked into the El Paso County Detention Facility with a $75,000.00 bond for the offense of Theft of Property over $30,000 and under $150,000.


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