High-Tech Sidekick Saga Features Old-School Shaming

How far would you go to get your cell phone back? One man combined old and new techniques and won the day.
A New York City man retrieved a friend's cell phone with the help of the New York City police and thousands of Internet supporters.

Evan Guttman set up a Web site, with the heading How Not To Steal a Sidekick after his friend Ivanna left her Sidekick in a taxicab. The pair sent text messages to the phone, but no one answered.

Soon after, Ivanna replaced her mobile device and discovered that someone had used the old one to take pictures and sign onto an AOL account. She discovered the pictures and e-mails because T-Mobile backs up data on remote servers.

Guttman said he used instant messages to contact the person in the photographs and emails but said she told him he was not getting the device back. That's when he decided to use old-fashioned shame, but a modern twist.

Guttman began recording correspondence with the girl on a new site, which also featured a forum. So many people emailed and participated in the discussions that he ran out of broadband capacity. Others helped with capacity and links as Guttman posted updates of his progress and his frustrations in getting the New York City Police Department to report the Sidekick stolen and make an arrest.

After a supporter tracked it down, he also posted the 16-year-old's MySpace address, which now has little more than a profanity-laced message pleading with people to leave her alone because she does not have the phone. Guttman also posted a message reportedly from the teen's brother, saying the brother was a military police officer and Guttman would have to deal with him if Guttman continued harassing the teen.

Guttman posted it and drew more support, from veterans, active members of the military and a member of the New York City Police Department who ultimately helped change the department's lost property report to a report for possession of stolen property.

Police finally arrested the teen, charged her with possessing the stolen Sidekick and said Ivanna could retrieve the device.

"Wow... I have no words to express how I feel right now," Guttman wrote as the saga began to wrap up. "Vindication, appreciation, relief... Just some of the words I can think of."

Guttman said his friend would not press charges against the teen. "We both feel that she has learned her lesson," he said. "We are not vengeful people. We just wanted what was right."

Guttman, who initially said he would not take money, said he and his friend are putting the cell phone on eBay soon. He said they will split the profits three ways, giving one-third to a charity. He said he changed his mind about seeking financial compensation after neglecting his own job to work around the clock on the case and after getting bills for overage on broadband use.

He has also been asked to appear on several television and radio shows.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing