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So, I Married the Facebook Burglar: Exclusive Interview

The Facebook Burglar Steve P, aka The Facebook Burglar, had his wife to reckon with.

Over the past three years, transportation employee Steve Pieczynski, aka The Facebook Burglar, allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars of stuff from victims he found on Facebook. He also went on the lam in his wife's car, stole from his mother-in-law, and tried to flee to Canada in a kayak. It's no wonder news reports acted like he was crazy—no one is calling this man a criminal mastermind—but when it comes to burglary, Pieczynski may be the new normal. The rise and fall of this particular thief is a perfect encapsulation of how new technology is changing the way people commit crimes… and how they get caught. We got to sit down with Pieczynski's former wife Kellie Fry, who helped bring her ex-husband to justice, and she gave us some exclusive details that will change the way you think about modern day security.

1. When Opportunity Beeps

a facebook burglar at work

About two years ago, the Johnsons* were finally ready to take off on a much-earned vacation. They packed their bags, gassed up the car, and posted a quick status update to Facebook—where they'd be going (Florida), how long they'd be gone (a few weeks), how excited they were. This information was mildly interesting to Johnson's family and friends… and majorly interesting to Steve Pieczynski, a friend of a friend whose "request" the Johnsons probably accepted and then quickly forget about. Assured of an unguarded target, Pieczynski allegedly took a short, unpublicized trip of his own—and came back with computers, CDs, and jewelry from the Johnson's house.

Pieczynski wasn't a trained burglar. He was probably just a low-scruples dude with, as Fry puts it, "two weeks off of work and too much time on his hands." It's since been revealed that, at the time of the Facebook burglary, Steve had allegedly stolen from at least two other "easy" targets—he'd taken his mother-in-law's life savings from her own house, and looted empty houses after Hurricane Irene. And even a seemingly innocuous social media post—tropical sunset Instagrams, Facebook rhapsodies about the mahi-mahi, angry tweets @ airlines—screams "MY HOUSE IS EMPTY" if the wrong person reads it.

***name changed to protect privacy.

2. Good Neighbors

police video of kayak escape

Luckily, the Johnsons had savvy neighbors. One of them, aware that the Johnsons were away and surprised to see an unfamiliar car parked near their house, took down Pieczynski's license number. When this neighbor heard about the burglary a few days later, he gave it to the police. (Just one more reason that, even if you don't want all of Facebook to know you're away, it's good to tip off a few people you trust).

"At some point, the detectives went through the victims' Facebook friend lists, found me, and saw the same car on my [profile]," said Kelli. Soon those detectives were knocking on Kellie and Steve's front door.

3. Flying The Coop

Kellie Fry

Steve was arrested, and pled guilty to three more burglaries in two states. He posted bond and struck a deal, and was all set to pay $17,000 to the victims, serve 60 days in jail, and enter a strict probation program. But before he started, he vanished… in his wife's car:

"On September 28, 2011, he left for work, or so I thought," Fry reports. "It's normal for me not to hear from him for a day or so because of his work shift, but a few days later, I hadn't heard from him at all." He had never made it to work: "I spoke to his foreman and co-workers and found that he had been talking about going to Canada to see a girl." Police were on the trail: "When I went to report him missing, they had already traced his last cell phone text to me and found it bounced off a cell tower in Toronto. I didn't know if he made it to Canada. He didn't have a passport and I couldn't imagine how he'd get over the border."

4. Mysteries & Mistresses

police video of kayak escape

But Steve did get into Canada: by paddling across the Niagara River in a kayak. Police, whose trail got cold at the border (seriously, who would expect a kayak?) needed all the help they could get to find him. So Kellie—angry, afraid, and in search of justice—started looking for answers:

“I went onto our home computer looking for any information that might tell me where he was. I discovered he had a new Facebook account, and I found that strange, as he was not supposed to have a Facebook account due to [the terms of his probation]. This new account had his picture on it, but a fake birthday and city, and only had ONE friend on his friends list. Yep, you guessed it, she was from TORONTO."

Fry knew she had found Steve's partner in crime. "I immediately gathered all the information I could about this girl from her Facebook profile, and sent it to the police. Within 2 days, I received a phone call from Border Control: We arrested Steve!" Fry learned that oversharing on Facebook can cut both ways: "This girl had listed a lot of personal information about herself, which is what got the [Johnsons] in trouble—but in this case, it served to catch a criminal."

5. What Now?

When Fry and I last spoke, Steve was waiting to be sentenced—for the earlier burglaries, plus a new charge of "escape" (he also told her he planned to take the Hurricane Irene cases back to trial and rescind his guilty plea). His victims (including Fry's mother) have not been refunded. Kellie has divorced Steve and relocated, and is rebuilding her life—with a new awareness of social media safety. What should we take away from her story? "Be careful what you put on Facebook!" she emphasizes. Avoid automatic check-in apps like Foursquare and Yelp—saying "I'm here with my friends!" also implies that you're not at home. "A certain level of responsibility comes with every type of social networking. Revealing too much, no matter how innocent it seems, give criminals just the "virtual door" they need to find your real door."

And if anyone would know this, it's Kellie Fry… a criminal lived behind her door the whole time.

All persons included in this post are innocent of crimes until proven guilty in a court of law.

SimpliSafe blogger extrodaniare Cara Giaimo

Cara Giaimo

A man's home is his castle, as they say, and no matter what kind of castle you have, I'm here to help you fortify it. When I'm not blogging, you can usually find me running, jamming with friends, or making strange types of ice cream.

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