Computer thief gets 12-year term

Burglary shut down monitoring equipment in cancer ward at Hopkins Hospital

September 21, 2007|By a Sun reporter

A man who worked for a company installing computer cables at Johns Hopkins Hospital was sentenced yesterday to 12 years in prison for stealing valuable computer network cards that, when disconnected, shut down monitoring equipment in a cancer ward, Baltimore prosecutors said.

Authorities said in court papers that the man's actions on two days last year jeopardized "the safety of all the patients." However, a hospital spokesman, John Lazarou, said that "patient safety was not jeopardized. There are backup systems to protect continuity of care."

Gregg Wakefield, 37, of Parkville pleaded guilty in July to several charges, including two counts of burglary, for twice stealing the same equipment -- on May 1 and Dec. 2 last year -- from a secure room in the Weinberg Building.

Prosecutors said Wakefield sold two network cards and related equipment -- worth a total of $113,000 -- to a person he had met on the Internet for about $18,000.

Wakefield worked for a Glen Burnie company, PrimeNet, and was installing video and audio cables in the Weinberg building last year. Police said Wakefield was not supposed to be in the computer network room and that he crawled through vents to gain access. He was caught on a video surveillance tape.

Police said a tape recording made during the May theft showed a man fitting Wakefield's description pulling a black bag on wheels into the hospital and then leaving with the bag a short time later. The computers in the cancer ward went down while the suspect was inside.

Seven months later, police said, a man parked a dark green Chevy Blazer in the garage and was captured on video again entering the Weinberg Building carrying the same luggage. He was seen leaving a short time later, and a police officer noted in a report that the bag "appears heavier than when he arrived."

Security officials at Hopkins posted photos of Wakefield on their internal Internet system, and his supervisors at PrimeNet recognized him. Shannon Gibson, the company's human resources manager, said Wakefield was fired.

Gibson said the company performs background checks on employees and bars workers who have been convicted of theft, burglary, fraud and assault. She said it had found no prior convictions for Wakefield.

According to court records and Wakefield's attorney, Bruce G. Thompson, Wakefield was on probation for burglary while he worked for the company. And court records show that he was convicted of fraud and identity theft in 2003.

At the sentencing hearing, Thompson said, his client "took full responsibility for his actions. He didn't try to make excuses. What he did was selfish."

Thompson said Wakefield had no criminal record until he was 34. He had spent nine years in the Navy and is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. The lawyer said Wakefield was honorably discharged.

In addition to the 12-year burglary sentence, Baltimore Circuit Judge Lynn K. Stewart gave Wakefield three years for violating the terms of his probation from the previous burglary conviction in Baltimore County.

"I thought it was a terribly harsh sentence," Thompson said.

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