The Fairfax Police Department announced in a press release that officials were first notified that thousands of FCPS computers were potentially being “illegally reallocated” to a warehouse in Springfield, Virginia, for nefarious purposes. After conducting surveillance on the facility, police arrested Fadi Atiyeh, Franque Minor II, and Mario Jones Jr. on July 14.
Attiyeh was the driver of the truck delivering the laptops, police say. According to a press release, Atiyeh, 36, “was arrested and charged with receiving stolen property and larceny with the intent to distribute. Detectives determined Atiyeh was employed by Attyah Computer Recycling. A search warrant was executed at the business, and additional evidence was recovered.”
That same day, officials arrested Minor and Jones Jr. The two men are both employed by FCPS. The pair “were charged with embezzlement and larceny with the intent to distribute.”
Detectives “believe as many as 35,000 laptops were stolen with an estimated value of over $2 million” and that “the offenses date back to November of 2020.”
Authorities added that once the laptops were delivered to the Springfield warehouse, the suspects allegedly stripped them of all their data so that the devices could be auctioned off.
Fairfax schools switched to virtual learning in the spring of 2020 and began limited in-person learning again in the spring of 2021. Thousands of kids were given school-issued laptops during that time.
Likewise, at certain FCPS schools participating in a program known as FCPSOn, every pupil receives a computer from the school district.
“In FCPSOn schools, each student receives an FCPS-issued laptop to access dynamic resources and participate in learning tailored to the student’s individual needs,” a school district website explains. “Students will have access to the device at school, and in some schools and grade levels, they will also be able to take their device home.”
It is unclear from which schools the allegedly stolen laptops originated.
Fairfax is not alone in struggling to keep track of school-related technology since the COVID pandemic began.
In March, The Chicago Sun-Times reported that 8% of Chicago Public School’s (CPS) technology has been either lost or stolen since the pandemic. Many of that technology had been given to families to assist with remote learning.
According to The Chicago Sun-Times, more than 40,000 Chromebooks remained unaccounted for.
“Schools have made repeated efforts to recover the lost devices from families without success,” according to a written statement from CPS officials in response to questions about the missing school property.
Likewise, The Chicago Sun-Times reported that 9,600 iPads, 114 televisions, 1,680 printers, and 1,127 audiovisual projectors were also missing.
“Some items may have been lost early in the pandemic, and some of this inventory has already been replaced with the intention of keeping all schools at 1:1 student-to-devices,” CPS said in a statement “Each school now has sufficient devices to pass out to their student population should they need to flip to remote learning.”