SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO -- Investigators looking into case of the chatty iPad and iPhone thief have turned their eyes northeast as the number of charges against him could grow.
A car salesman at a Sacramento Volvo dealership has told police he's sure he was a victim of the Pleasanton man prosecutors allege chatted up office workers and then stole their Apple devices once they got distracted. He's been charged with the thefts in San Mateo County, but reports have tied him to similar crimes in Sonoma, Santa Clara and Marin counties.
"He was busy," South San Francisco police Detective Mike Garcia said of suspect Nicholas Anthony Simat, 26.
The Sacramento case stems from a Sunday in late December or early January when the workers at Turner Volvo got a strange visitor. Art Spina, finance manager there, said he ended up talking to the well-dressed man, who looked like "he'd just come from the country club." The man wanted to arrange for some car repairs, but he was mumbling, slurring his words and didn't make much sense.
But, as happened in the other cases, Spina got distracted for a couple minutes by a phone call and lost track of the strange visitor. When he turned his attention back to the mumbling man, he had disappeared and so had Spina's iPad. It was a mystery until Spina's boss suggested he check out some media coverage -- including a surveillance photo of the suspect -- of similar thefts on the Peninsula.
"As soon as we saw his picture, we knew it was him," Spina said. Surveillance footage at the dealership allegedly captured an image of the same man.
Garcia said it's one of many reports that have poured in since he went public with the case. There have been reports of similar thefts in Palo Alto, Petaluma, South San Francisco, Burlingame, Daly City, San Rafael, Broadmoor and Millbrae, Garcia said.
Simat has pleaded not guilty in San Mateo County Superior Court to 13 felony theft counts. He was behind bars in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.