Elementary School iPad Thief Sentenced to Prison

A man convicted of stealing iPads and MacBook computers from multiple local elementary schools was sentenced to four years in prison on Friday.

Thomas Burleson, 21, is a known gang member from Riverside County, Calif., who stole the electronics from schools along with two other gang members, Trevor Williams and Eyon Zimmerman.

The break-ins happened last winter and fall at schools in the North County and Lakeside including Del Mar Heights Elementary, El Camino Creek Elementary, Cardiff Elementary, Lakeside Middle School, Lakeside Farms School and Lakeside Elementary School.

The thefts included at least 29 iPads, MacBooks and an Epson projector. The items stolen are worth approximately $250,000.

The three men were arrested in late January at a border checkpoint on Interstate 15. Stolen iPads and MacBooks were found in the trunk of their vehicle, which was being driven by Burleson. Officials also found a pair of bolt cutters inside the car.

Burleson was on probation in connection with a prior offense when he committed the school thefts. All three men were arrested and booked into jail.

During his sentencing on Friday, Burleson spoke in court, acknowledging his mistakes and asking a judge for leniency in his case.

“I know what I did was wrong,” Burleson told a judge. “And I wish that you could show me as much leniency as you possibly could, so I can be home with my unborn child, and start a new life with my family and soon-to-be wife.”

Burleson’s pregnant fiancée, Tamara Wright, also appeared in court. She was emotional, and, at one point, was unable to continue talking through tears.

“I’ve been with Thomas since I was 14 years old and it hasn’t been this long since we’ve been apart. It’s affected me tremendously,” said Wright. “I’m due in October and I want him to be part of my child’s life because a child can’t grow up with just one parent.”

In the end, Burleson was sentenced to serve four years in state prison and pay restitution.

Deputy District Attorney Brendan McHugh said Burleson, Williams and Zimmerman admitted to committing the thefts on behalf of and for the benefit of their gang.

McHugh said Williams was sentenced to seven years in prison and Zimmerman to five years in prison. Burleson was the last of the three defendants to be sentenced. The three men have no ties to San Diego, other than through their crimes.

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