I love almost any story that begins with people banding together for a shared cause, and I'm also fond of true crime stories.
This one is both.
Sean Power, a Canadian web consultant, was in New York City on business when a bag containing his laptop, cell phone, his health care card, and "two copies of his birth certificate" for some reason, was stolen.
Luckily, his passport wasn't stolen and he was able to return home to Ontario on his previously scheduled flight, where he then purchased a replacement computer.
Four days later, he received a message from a free tracking tool called Prey alerting him that his stolen MacBook pro was currently in use at a bar in Manhattan AND it provided him with screenshots of his computer screen AND THEN turned on the camera so he was able to view the user!!!
He then quickly enlisted his approx. 12,000 Twitter followers to go to the bar, find the man, and retrieve the computer:
"Twitter, help! Prey just found my stolen (as of three days ago) laptop. Here's the report. I see the guy!" he tweeted.
As Power told SecurityNewsDaily, "I feel that I am justified in taking pictures of anything around my property if it is stolen."
If you've already started picturing a montage of Twitter followers from all walks of life putting on their shoes (and pants, shirts, etc.) to go and fight for someone they've never met, you're not alone. I am riveted. Are you riveted yet? No? That's okay. There's still time!
The man in New York then logged onto Skype using his real name. Power sent out the man's name (we won't use his last name) and location - a restaurant in the Soho neighborhood called Oficina Latina, which happened to be the last place Power had seen his laptop.
"OK. Paulo Xxxxxx is playing with my laptop *right now* at Oficina Latina in NYC (a tequila bar)", wrote Power.
A follower of Power named @hughmcguire did some Googling.
"@seanpower dude he's the *owner* of the resto: www.barspace.tv/oficinalatinanyc"
Another came up with a plan.
"@seanpower I am sure we can virtually arrange a geek squad intervention to go reclaim your gear. You need help rounding up a posse?" tweeted @pfasano.
OMG there is now a potential NERD POSSE! For REAL!
At this point, Power feared what would happen when the "geek squad" intervened, so he contacted the local NYPD precinct to ask if they could send a few officers to go to the restaurant.
Unfortunately, the police said they couldn't send anyone to investigate because Power hadn't filed a report and thus, he was promptly hung up on.
But wait! There's more! And it involves a sarong!:
Meanwhile, Power's female friend, who didn't use Twitter (he refers to her as "the girl in the purple sarong") was making friends at the bar.
"Text from the girl at bar: 'Max [another owner of the restaurant] is hitting on me. Just gave me his card. He is the interior designer of this place.' (hah)", Power tweeted. "Apparently, the girl that went there has befriended two of the bartenders and is doing shots with them. Wow."
And another Twitter follower of his, Nick Reese, was captivated by the whole exchange and hopped a cab down to the restaurant.
Reese met the woman in the purple sarong, then texted Power that that Max, the man who'd been hitting on her, was walking out carrying a laptop bag.
"Don't follow him. Don't get directly involved," Power texted back. "It's not worth it."
Reese would have none of that. Thanks to Max's conversation with the woman in the purple sarong, the two of them already had his cellphone number and address.
Power called Max and spoke to him. Then Max made another call.
"I think Max just called," Reese texted. "Paulo is on the phone with him."
Max returned to the restaurant, where Reese and the woman showed everyone the pictures of Paolo - who turned out to be one of the bartenders - using the stolen laptop.
"Not liking this," Reese texted. "Max is furious."
Power got worried. "Are you still there? Still OK?" he texted Reese.
Four minutes passed. And then came some good news.
"She's here," texted Reese. "Got the bag. In a cab with the bag."
Finally, Power signed off with a summation of tweets.
"So ... Paolo freely gave it up. I'm not about to accuse anyone of anything. I'd rather forget that that place exists and just move on," he wrote. "OH. And yes, my birth certificates & ID are in there. Looks like everything is intact. But yes, Internet - I'm about 800km away, and I got my stolen laptop back."
If you're interested in doing something other than writing a screen adaptation of these events, you can read Sean Power's tweets in chronological order here.