Laptop Stolen from Checked Bag, Recovered on Craigslist

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This laptop recovery story is both a triumphant and cautionary tale.

Ambre Boroughs made a major mistake when she checked her new HP 9000 laptop on a Southwest flight--in its laptop bag, no less. Unsurprisingly, she found her laptop missing from its bag at the other end of her flight.

However, Boroughs' Craigslist detective work helped Chicago police recover not only her stolen laptop, but more than a dozen other missing electronics allegedly removed from travelers' checked luggage.

Boroughs tells NBC Chicago that the first leg of her trip from Charleston to Chicago was "an absolute ordeal" with no room to put her carryon, so on the way back she decided to check all her bags--including the laptop bag. Southwest's "Bags Fly Free" promotion also influenced her decision.

After receiving Boroughs' report, TSA checked its security video and sent Boroughs a letter stating the laptop was still in the case when it went through security. So somewhere between going through security and coming off the conveyor belt, the laptop disappeared from the checked bag.

Southwest, like other airlines, claims no responsibility for checked computers.

Boroughs' case might just have been a cautionary tale if she hadn't used some ingenuity in retrieving the laptop herself. Instead, it's also a detective story.

The morning after Boroughs' laptop went missing, she searched Craigslist for "HP 9000" in the Chicago section, refreshing the page almost every half-hour until she found her laptop. The sticker on the laptop with the logo of the "33's" positively identified the computer as hers. (The logo of a South Carolina band is also tattooed on Boroughs' wrist.)

She then called the police. Chicago police, posing as Boroughs, went to the seller's house and arrested three people. (Interestingly enough, none of them work for Southwest, so it appears there are still some loose ends.)

The police retrieved eleven other laptops plus other electronics from the Craigslist seller's house, and itemized the gadgets in the arrest report as "removed from checked luggage of ticketed passengers on Southwest Airlines at Midway."

Now, most of us know not to check important electronics like laptops--not just because they'll get stolen, but because they may be damaged in transit. Those of you who don't know this should think twice--even if you can check your bags for free.

Customizing your laptop's cover also seems like a good idea now, just in case you ever need to do your own detective work on Craigslist.

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