Kleptomaniac caught

North Side cyberstalker's arrest led to plummeting accounts of theft in 19th District

06/06/2012 10:00 PM

Contributing Reporter

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Cook County prosecutors have racked up new indictments for a West Lincoln Park resident indicated for a prolific string of cyber attacks and large-scale burglaries staged in the affluent North Side neighborhood.

Earlier this week, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced that her office had introduced twelve new burglary charges against Jicheng Liu, 32, who last month was arraigned on multiple counts of cyber stalking, computer fraud and identity theft.

Liu, a Chinese national with no legal immigration status in the United States, was arrested in March after police found a trove of stolen goods at his home on the 1700 block of West Altgeld Street.

Among the lifted items were hundreds of bicycles, TV sets, baby strollers and golf clubs — much of which was eventually returned back to the original owners living nearby. Police also found jewelry, an automobile title, a stolen check for more than $200,000 and a collection of car keys and garage door openers labeled with corresponding addresses in Liu’s care at the time of his arrest.

The reserve of stolen goods, kept in storage lockers at the suspect’s home, was estimated to be worth around $1 million.

According to the statement, the Chicago Police Department solved approximately 100 burglary cases “based on the identification of the property by the victims.”

The new charges, announced on Tuesday, paint Liu as a serial burglar “believed to be responsible for hundreds of thefts, including a pattern of stealing packages that had been delivered to residents and left on the front porches of homes throughout the Lincoln Park neighborhood,” according to Alvarez’s statement, which adds that the burglary rate in the 19th police district, where Liu was believed to be operating, has decreased by more than 70 percent since his arrest earlier this year.

In April, the Chicago Tribune interviewed a couple that had helped Liu sell the goods through an online consignment store, unaware that the items were stolen. The sellers became suspicious when they found a receipt in a bag of golf clubs which indicated that the buyer had been someone other than Liu.

An investigation into Liu’s practices revealed that he had regularly cyber-stalked individuals who he believed were trying to hinder and report his activities. In some cases, Liu attacked potential whistleblowers by spreading rumors about them on consumer and social media websites.

“These victims became the subject of vicious online smear campaigns that targeted their personal and professional reputations,” the state’s attorney’s office said in the release.

At one point, Liu apparently launched an online attack on two police officers who had previously arrested him, spreading misinformation that framed one as a sexual predator and the other as a “corrupt and abusive officer.”

After reporting him to the police, the couple who had consigned Liu’s merchandise began seeing scathing buyer reviews on their site, presumably written by their former partner.

“Ultimately the negative feedback caused their business to fail,” the release stated.

In some instances, Liu misidentified his victims and went after the wrong people, “leading several innocent individuals to suffer the consequences of his cyber attacks,” the state’s attorney’s office said.

Liu was eventually arrested on a misdemeanor charge after a woman spotted her stolen stroller in an online ad posted by the suspect and contacted the authorities. Chicago police and Cook County state’s attorney investigators were able to link Liu to a number of other complaints, some of which included falsified online statements and food delivery orders made to the homes of his targets.

Prosecutors found financial records indicating that Liu had wired $300,000 to Hong Kong shortly before his arrest in March.

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