Snap! Missing Camera Transmits Pictures Back to Owner

ABC News’ Jenna Harrison reports:

LOS ANGELES – Call it the case of crime-solving technology.

Months after Dr. Jeffery Plotkin’s 3-D camera vanished from his chiropractic office in Canoga Park, Calif., in March, images from the camera began appearing on his computer.

Plotkin says the camera disappeared after a man came to his office inquiring about appointments. When the doctor turned around, he believes, his briefcase disappeared and with it, the $700 Fujifilm camera inside.

“I thought it was unfortunate, but I thought if this crook turns on the camera, there’s a slim chance I can get this camera back,” Plotkin told ABC News.

The slim chance came from the Eye-Fi wireless memory card inside the camera. The memory card allows users to connect to wireless networks to transmit photos from the camera directly to a home computer without connecting a cord.

Two months after the theft, pictures of men flashing gang signs began appearing on Plotkin’s computer.

“I was astounded to see these pictures coming from my camera,” he said.

Plotkin immediately contacted the Los Angeles Police Department.

“I know they thought I was a nut,” he said. “They were definitely not interested in a case of a missing camera.”

However, when Plotkin described the odd pictures he was receiving on his computer, the LAPD began investigating.

“The officer was excited like a little kid,” he said. “He had never seen pictures like this.”

The doctor turned the pictures over the LAPD gang unit in hopes of someone recognizing the men. When no one could identify them, Plotkin remembered the card was equipped with geo-location tagging.

“Most people use the feature to remember where they took the picture, not to find criminals,” Randhir Vieira, vice president of product marketing for Eye-Fi, told ABC News.

However, as soon as Plotkin turned on the feature, the pictures stopped coming.

“I figured the battery died because I had the battery charger,” he said. “I thought that was the end of the pictures.”‘

Then in late August, it all changed.

“A new batch of pictures just popped up. I was shocked,” Plotkin said.

With the geo-tagging enabled, an LAPD detective was able to trace the location of the camera to a house in Van Nuys, Calif., Plotkin said.

When the detective arrived at the house, the people denied any knowledge about the camera, Plotkin added.  But when he showed them the pictures sent to Plotkin’s computer, they changed their story, claiming they bought the camera from a man in a barbershop.

Police retrieved Plotkin’s camera. No arrests were made.

According to Vieira, this is one of the first cases in which Eye-Fi assisted the return of a stolen camera, but not the first time users have received pictures from missing cameras.

“We’ve heard of people losing their camera and having pictures of people they don’t know appear on their computers,” Vieira said. “But who knew it would be used as a 21st century solution to crime.”

As for Plotkin, he bought more Eye-Fi cards for his other cameras.

“I’m sure this is going to happen more,” he said.

He is currently working on his 3-D photography business, having already covered his first project, the LAPD Memorial Ride.

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