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Campus Police charge former MIT student in computer theft case

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 22 for a member of the class of 2002 charged with receiving stolen property in connection with the theft of a computer from the Department of Chemistry in Building 18.

Mark L. Strauss, 23, of Mesa, Ariz., was arraigned in Cambridge District Court March 21 and released on personal recognizance. The chemical engineering major was arrested the previous day. Strauss was not registered for the spring semester.

After arresting Strauss, MIT Police obtained a search warrant for his room in the Zeta Psi fraternity on Massachusetts Avenue and seized $30,000-$40,000 worth of computers and computer equipment.

Det. John Peterson said that several buildings on campus had experienced a number of computer thefts in recent months. He said Building 18 had 34 reported larcenies in the past year.

MIT Police Chief John DiFava said the investigation was launched last Friday. While a police officer in Building 18 was taking a report on a stolen computer, a chemistry graduate student browsed eBay and noted that a similar computer was being offered for sale.

Police contacted Strauss via e-mail and obtained his phone number. Officer Mark Kelleher spoke with him by phone several times and a deal was struck. The computer's value was estimated at $400.

Police said Strauss agreed to deliver the property for inspection to Massachusetts Avenue near Lansdowne Street, close to the fraternity house, on Wednesday at about 1 p.m. He was met by Kelleher in plain clothes, who ascertained it was the missing computer. Kelleher signaled to Peterson, Lt. Michael Assad, and Officers Robert Molino and Orlando Tirella, who responded immediately. Strauss was arrested at the scene by Molino.

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