The Theft of My Laptop in Medellin

For my first few weeks in Medellin I stayed friends’ couch in Sabaneta, Medellin’s southern-most suburb. It’s a nice building with high fences topped with razor wire and a 24-hour security guard. They’ve lived on the third floor for over seven months. They often leave open the windows and sliding glass door leading to the patio. They’ve never had a problem.

Wednesday Justin and I went to the gym at 11 am. We got back around 1 and I immediately noticed my laptop was gone. Justin went in his room and realized his was gone too. Zac’s was still there. The only other thing missing was Justin’s hard drive. The thief missed cash laying out, digital cameras, and other valuables.

I thought we were fucked and there was no point in calling the police. Justin disagreed. He and I went down to the porteria, the building security guard to talk about what happened. The porteria immediately rang the second floor apartment, the neighbors with the easiest access to the apartment windows. It could’ve been conceivable someone from the fourth floor apartment above climbed down to our patio, but that side of the building faces the street where people are around to see.

A tall Colombian wearing gym shorts and sandals and nothing else, late 20s, came down to the garage, and later a fifteen year old kid. Justin told me in English the tall Colombian was the guy who lost his ball in our apartment a few days before. What???

The neighbors invited us into their apartment to look around. The place was a shrine to Catholicism. Saint statues and other Jesus stuff everywhere. We all went out to their back terrace to look up at the windows. It’s a large, walled-in concrete patio. Second floor residents are the only ones with these terraces. This terrace walled in access to all the possible climbs to Justin’s and Zac’s third-floor windows. The tall Colombian said something about a person who was hanging around their second-floor neighbor’s front door that day. From that apartment, the thief would’ve had to hop the nine-foot concrete wall separating the patios.

The thief could’ve gotten in Justin’s room or the kitchen window. Outside each were cement ledges that provided enough footing to hop in. Standing out there I thought about what the hell Justin was talking about with this tall guy in our apartment. I tried getting a vibe off the tall cunt, and I didn’t like him. I went back upstairs to think.

Justin came up and told me the story. On Monday when I was at the gym, Tall Cunt knocked on the door saying he accidentally threw a small ball into one of the windows. Justin let him in and they found the ball back in Justin’s room. This red flag slapped me in the face. It had to be him. People rob houses when they know what’s inside.

Justin found handprints next to his bedroom window, which would’ve been easier to get in because it’s larger than the kitchen window. Only the fifteen year old could’ve gotten in the kitchen window.

Justin and I went back down to the porteria and told him what we found, and what do we do? The porteria called the administrador, the building manager. The administrador quickly arrived and we told him the story. He led us back to the second floor apartment.

Our second time at the second floor neighbors’ place, Tall Cunt had left but the fifteen year old’s father, the name on the lease, had arrived. He was a typical old paisa in his late 40s, early 50s. He played defensive as soon as we arrived.

Out back on the terrace looking at Justin’s window, we noticed that route would also be an easier climb because there’s a large cement column leading up to the ledge right next to the brick wall of the building. It wouldn’t be hard to walk up the two walls to the ledge for footing, and hop in through the window. The administrador noted that, and he called the police.

Avoid most trouble by staying in the upscale Poblado. See luxury apartments in Medellin.

While we waited we brought up the fact that Tall Cunt had been in the apartment just two days prior. The old guy insisted he had “millones de pesos” in his apartment and Tall Cunt hadn’t stolen anything. I was trying to figure out who was who because these three didn’t seem like a family. It came out Tall Cunt used to work for the old man, and he’s only been living there for a couple weeks. I mentioned that Justin and Zac have been leaving the windows open for over seven months and never had a problem. But now there is? Everything pointed at Tall Cunt.

The old paisa got more defensive. He complained about the smell of marijuana every night (Zac). His paisa Spanish was difficult to follow and he was talking fast, but he was just talking to hear himself talk. Loudly and defensively. He finished every sentence with “Sí, ¿me entiende?” or “¿Sí o no?” I often finish sentences with those two Colombian mannerisms, and I decided right then and there I’d cut them out so I don’t come off like this asshole.

We all stood around waiting for the cops. I went back up to the apartment and paced back and forth, working up my anger. That Tall Cunt invited us up with a straight face and a smile, and he robbed my computer. The cops can’t get it back, so I have to beat it out of him. I started thinking about how to catch him coming in or out of the building. I thought about the dogs who prowl the block that might attack me if I started beating on him.

It’d actually be fair to fuck this dude up. He’s as tall as me and probably doesn’t weigh much less. But his weight is mostly fat, a kind of skinny fat but not too skinny or too fat. Not strong, not fast, not shit. Easy knockout material.

I’m thinking all this and working up my anger when Justin comes up and asks me to come back down and wait for the cops. I go back down and stand around in the heat with Justin, Justin’s girl, the administrador, the paisa asshole, and the fifteen year old.

Two cops showed up and we told them the story. Two more cops showed up, rookies who wore neon vests and didn’t even have batons. Then two more full-fledged cops showed up. The first two did all the investigating.

One cop was shorter, Peruvianlooking (read ‘Indian’), and in his early 30s. The other was lighter in his mid 20s. The lighter one started piecing together who was there when it happened, and bee-lined right for the kid. He pulled him aside with one of the other cops. They spoke to him in low voices for a minute or so. The younger cop turned and walked back toward us. He looked at Peruano, shook his head and said “Sin duda, sin duda.”

The kid told him Tall Cunt had asked him to go to the store for cigarettes. When the kid got back, Tall Cunt wasn’t there. Peruano turned to the old paisa, asking him where is Tall Cunt? The old paisa played dumb, saying something about a señorita the guy stays with sometimes. Peruano wasn’t having it. Don’t give me that, I know you can call him up and get him over here. He pressed the old paisa.

Tall Cunt was back in a half hour. When I left their apartment I saw him sitting on a bed surrounded by cops. I went to pace back and forth and work up anger at the primary garage exit. I still didn’t think we were going to get our shit back, and was planning to corner Tall Cunt as soon as he tried to leave the building. After ten minutes, the administrador came out and told me he was leaving. He told me Tall Cunt was acting “muy fresco.” As soon as he got to the apartment he plopped down on that bed and turned on the television. He was giving the cops major attitude. I thanked the administrador for his help.

A little while later the cops came down to the garage with Tall Cunt and put him in the back of their truck. After they left, another cop told me they took him to the station for fingerprinting. This gave me a bit of hope in getting my computer back since there were fingerprints all over Justin’s wall, including a perfect hand print. I went back upstairs.

Before long a young, clean cut Colombian in a t-shirt and jeans knocked. He was the cops’ fingerprint guy, but he didn’t have anything with him. He was waiting for somebody else. Another young guy in t-shirt and jeans showed up with a backpack, escorted by one of the rookie cops who’d been on the second floor.

I showed them the window and they told me they couldn’t do anything. What? Look at all those damn fingerprints, and that handprint! They said something about this not being the United States and they don’t have the same stuff, and told me not to worry because we had to wait for something anyway. Justin came back and I went right back down to the garage exit, thinking Tall Cunt was going to show up and be let go or something. I resumed fuming.

The fingerprint guys came down to the garage and waited a good distance away. They noticed how pissed I looked and told me not to worry. They just got off the phone and said it was “controlado,” one of them smiling. Under control? How? What did they mean? I went back up to the apartment.

I paced back and forth half-reassured, half not wanting to get my hopes up. I left the front door open. Soon the darker cop came up. He offered a fist pound. I pounded back, looking confused. He almost whispered when he spoke. He said they had our laptops in the truck. My eyes must’ve lit up. I hugged him. He told me to keep quiet and close the door.

My spirits lifted, I may’ve jumped up and down or exclaimed or something. A few minutes later, Justin and the cop came in with two plastic black bags. Inside were our computers plus the hard drive. NICE!

I tried logging in while the cop asked if we were sure it was our stuff. I was sure of my computer, but somebody had changed my password to log into Windows. Justin’s was fine. The cop told us Tall Cunt had sold our computers for 100,000 pesos each ($50) to a vendor in Monterrey, an informal electronics shopping center in Medellin.

I tried to figure out how to get into Windows without the password. Justin and I wondered aloud in English if we were supposed to give this cop some money. Typical cultural uncertainty. Silly in hindsight, but really though: do you pay a Colombian cop when this happens? I thought I’d keep playing with the computer and wait for the cop to force the issue. He wasn’t leaving, and he didn’t force the issue. Justin asked me again and we didn’t know what else to do. I finally asked “¿Debemos algo?” as I pulled out a twenty. Peruano put his hands up defensively and insisted No, No. He left as we thanked him some more.

A few hours later a neighbor came by. He told us there was never a fingerprinting. The cops brought Tall Cunt to the station. They told him he had to return the laptops, or they’d all take a walk to the mountain (read “take a walk to the mountain and shoot him.”) Tall Cunt kept denying until the cops basically said, OK, Let’s go for the walk. Tall Cunt told them the computers were in Monterrey. They all rode there together. They let Tall Cunt go, who quickly left the neighborhood.

(See Limpiezas: Social Cleansing in Colombia for more on how police kill criminals and undesirables.)

Say what you will about tactics, I was impressed by these Colombian cops. Granted it was an easy case, but we had our computers in less than six hours of discovering they’d been stolen. The cops weren’t even called for an hour, and they took at least a half hour to show up. So from when they arrived and heard the story, the Sabaneta / Medellin / Colombian police had the computers within two hours, and that would include the traffic they sat in to get to Poblado and back. Impressive, and they didn’t want any money!

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  1. Glad my apartment in Medellin is on the 20th floor. Good to know how the paisa thefts are thinking…throwing a ball into an apartment to scope it out.

    Well this is coming from a guy who believes in the teachings of Buddha, but I say you’re better off not getting into unnecessary fights. Sure, you could’ve kicked his ass. But you could’ve also had your ass kicked if other Colombians got involved. Or ended up in jail. Worth it in the end? I doubt it. Better to walk away and vent through ranting or writing.

    By the way, been following your blog for a year or so now. Kudos for your honesty.


  2. It would be worth it, but you don’t want to do it where there are people watching. Find out where the worthless bastard lives, hire some street kid to get some idea of his habits… then one night a few months from now you ambush him and take out one knee (or foot) and both collar bones. Leave a note on the body something to the effect .. ‘Next time thief you die’. Japanese have it right – Revenge is dish best eaten cold. Oh, and make sure you have some people that will provide and alibi.


  3. Thieves in barrios not so bad get mob beat-down to death. Someone I work with had that happen in front of his house a couple weeks ago.


  4. Ok, I’m from NY, so this was an awesome story for me. But a little disappointing.

    I know there’s a hug difference between wanting to beat someone’s ass and actually doing it. Especially (or maybe only?) for a guy with a conscience. You are right, you can’t think about it. When you saw him in the hallway those days after, you should have immediately punched as hard as you could square in the face. Then you hold him on the ground and you put your angry, sweaty gringo face right up to his and shout as loud and crazy as you can that if you ever see him again you will fucking kill him. THAT is the only way to deal with pieces of shit like this.

    You got your computers back. Amazing. Great. But this dickhead is going to steal someone else’s computer the minute he gets a chance because in the end, there was no negative reinforcement, no punishment.

    Easy for me to write, I know. Shit, now I’m all worked up.


  5. Buddy–you are much younger than myself but I have been where you are when you wrote this tale—learn to walk away–you will end up a fucking stastic for being the epitome of an arrogant asshole muscle-head–thus giving all of us a bad name.
    I love your Blog –but you are a guest in a foreign country–take the high road everytime, –you would not do well in a colombian prison regardless of how hard you think you are–and you will probably die in one of them if you keep on the path you are going—think of your family friends and fans–you serve no purpose by dying over a fucking lap-top the police retrieved for you—if I was you I would take the opportunity to buy the investigating officers and their wives a nice dinner–it would go a long way to helping you in your next fiasco–which I am sure is a bound to happen


  6. Hmm, the cops allowed him to walk the streets again after knowing his guilt. They should have beat his ass at least and then tell him he’s fortunate he didn’t go for the mountain ride to his grave.


  7. The good, the cops actually gave a damn and they got your laptops back.

    The bad, the dude didn’t even get any charges pressed or go to jail. Wtf!?

    When you saw him you should have cussed him out then and there. You screwed up when you started thinking and planning. Or maybe it was for the better, who knows?


  8. We had wanted to visit Colombia for a long time, having already been to several Central and South American countries and enjoying the experiences. We decided on Medellin based on the amazing location giving it great weather year round. So where to stay for an extended period of time? Not knowing anyone who had been there before we did what so many do…we went to the internet.

    I found the site and sent an email about one of the apartments. We were contacted by Albert Licht who said he was the apartment owner. The apartment we rented was Terrazas Patio Bonito 1104. We decided to rent it in June 2012, after exchanging several emails as it seemed to fit our needs with location and security. We arrived at the apartment building and were pleased with the surrounding. It is in a very good part of town. The main door is locked at all times and there is a security person there manning it 24 hours a day! Having never been to Colombia we wanted to assure our safety (at least to the extent that one can do). Having travelled to over 25 countries and living long term in several of them, we felt like we were experienced travellers and so far we felt very good about choice of rentals.

    Sebastian Lopez (Albert’s partner) met us and escorted us up to the 11th floor…approaching the apartment door we immediately noticed that it had a push button style combination lock on the door instead of the standard deadbolt that ALL of the other apartments in the building had. We were very concerned since any number of people could have the combination and therefore full access to our things and we told Sebastian about our concern as it didn’t seem right at all but he assured us that no one knew the code and everything would be fine. We didn’t feel comfortable about it and but since the building had 24 hour manned security and after the reassurance offered by Albert’s assistant we decided it would be ok. We felt uneasy about it…well, this was our first mistake…TRUST.

    We rented for 1 month and 2 weeks into the rental we noticed that our dog was acting odd when we returned to the apartment. He was scared and hiding as if something had happened. We made a mental note of it but nothing more, until a couple of days later when we needed to find something in the luggage and noticed that one of the locks on a bag had been broken! It has been fine when we moved it! It was carefully positioned to appear at a casual glance to be fine so clearly they didn’t want us to notice the robbery immediately. We quickly searched the bag onto discover that a very valuable item has been stolen! We immediately informed building security and the owner Albert Licht about the robbery in his apartment.

    Neither building security or Albert seemed the least bit concerned, in fact, Albert didn’t contact us until a day later (after we left many phone calls and emails). When he did he was completely defensive and didn’t seem concerned about our loss or our well being. The robbery was clearly an inside job as the thief knew the security code and was welcome in the building (remember the 24 hour manned security). We immediately changed the lock to a deadbolt but we never felt safe again since we suspected that the building security were actually part of the theft. Albert offered no assistance even though this occurred inside his apartment. The door lock he provided to secure the apartment door was sub-standard for the environment and clearly inadequate as evidenced by all the other apartments having multiple deadbolts! Although we have no way to prove it, we suspect that someone associated with the apartment rental company was directly involved. How can someone enter a locked building (with men at the front desk), then enter a locked apartment, then search and have time to steal an item from a locked bag!

    I strongly recommend that you avoid doing business with Albert Licht and his company. They left us high and dry and offered only defensive excuses and nothing else. We never even saw Albert once after that event. He refused to give us a refund for the rental even though we suffered a substantial lose due to his inadequate security. At times we even felt intimidated and threatened by him and associates instead of being assisted! Our vacation was ruined. I strongly recommend that you avoid Albert Licht and his company at all cost. Neither the building or the apartment are safe. If it can happen in that location (and it did) it can certainly happen in other apartments as well.

    Trust no one you do not know personally. Change the lock on any apartment you are renting. You have no idea who you can trust, who has keys, (or in our case – the combination) or even if the building security is actually there to protect you or simply to watch until you leave for other reasons!


  9. this lee guy is on different sites telling the story all over again , and well I got so curious I needed to know the truth so when I went to medellin last Xmas , I did some snooping around and turns out that the owner actually offered help and was very serious about the matter and worried but the couple that rented the ap. did not care how did I find out… I looked at the police report responding to the owners concern, so now I can trust Medellin again, its a good thing I have family in the colombian forces .


  10. I gave Albert Licht a $400 deposit for a apartment in Cartagena. Two days before I arrive, he says the apartment was sold. I had to scramble to find another rental. After many request to return my money, he basically said go fuck yourself. He is a liar, thief and a scam artist. (Not to mention a habitual liar) Stay away from this guy, he is bad news! I would also be very leery of anyone defending him. They are either fools he has completely brainwashed or a thief and liar like him. Birds of a feather – stick together!


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