A Palos Verdes High School teacher guessed this week that whoever took $50,000 worth of computers from his classroom would try to fence them in cyberspace. He guessed right.
On a hunch, 39-year-old Alan Evans combed listings on the Internet auction site EBay. “And there they were,” he said. “I wasn’t surprised.”
What did surprise him was that “anyone could think that there’s any kind of anonymity” with online auctions.
Sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday arrested Andrew Hun Kim, 18, of Rancho Palos Verdes and Nicolas Pisar, 18, of Redondo Beach on suspicion of burglary. Both are seniors on campus but are not in Evans’ digital animation course that uses 10 graphics-intensive Macintosh G5 computers costing $5,000 apiece.
“I think they were trying to unload them as quickly as they could,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dennis Graff, supervising investigator in the case. “From what I understand, they were good students, but what they did wasn’t very smart.”
Someone jimmied a door after hours Oct. 29. The next day, a Saturday, Evans came in to do some work and discovered the computers gone, along with the students’ work stored on them.
“The kids felt completely violated,” Evans said. “This class is part of a dream of theirs: to go into the animation industry. They live for this stuff.”
After notifying sheriff’s deputies, the teacher considered.
“I thought, ‘There’s no way one person is going to keep all those computers,’ ” he said. “I’m not familiar with any street-level way to fence this stuff in Palos Verdes. So I went on EBay.”
With a few keystrokes, a listing popped up for the 10 computers at starting bids of $800 each and two addresses that investigators used to arrest Kim and Pisar. Deputies found the computers in a Torrance storage facility. None had been sold.
Evans is a former animation industry professional who developed the digital video course that is being offered for the first time this year.
“I have a ton invested in this program, so no one should be surprised that I went after it a bit,” Evans said.
“He gets a gold star on his forehead, that’s for sure,” Principal Kelly Johnson said.
Graff acknowledged that Evans was ahead of detectives on the case.
“I think he should be commended for his efforts,” Graff said. “We check EBay, but we start with pawnshops.”
Johnson suspended Kim and Pisar and began expulsion proceedings.
“There are a lot of things kids do that are kid nonsense. This is not kid nonsense; this is theft, and I have zero tolerance for that,” he said.
The suspects were released from jail on $20,000 bail each. The case is being forwarded to the district attorney’s office for review of possible charges, Graff said.
By Friday, workers were reinstalling the computers. Evans said that when his students learned the equipment was back, “the room erupted in cheers.”