NEWBURYPORT – A Saugus man who police say attached an Apple tracking device to his girlfriend’s car in order to find out where she was going, was sentenced to detention without bail after being arraigned in court Monday of Newburyport District.
Manuel Deleon, 27, of Broadway, faces robbery under $1,200, misdemeanor break and enter and criminal harassment charges. Judge Peter Doyle ordered that Deleon be held on $2,500 bail for those charges, but because Deleon was awaiting trial on a Concord District Court charge, Doyle revoked his bail.
Court documents say he attached an Apple AirTag inside his BMW letting him know where she was driving. On several occasions, he sent her messages containing screenshots of his car in different areas, including at least one address in Newburyport.
In recent months, there have been numerous complaints across the country about how button-sized Apple AirTags have been used to track people’s whereabouts and steal cars, according to reports. published.
Coming to market last April, Apple AirTags were touted by the company as a convenient way to track where important things are (car keys, wallets, purses, backpacks, and luggage) by connecting them to another Apple device via Bluetooth, then using the device’s “Find My” app. For months now, people have been posting horror stories on TikTok, Twitter and other social media platforms about how their locations have been tracked by AirTags, reports elsewhere note.
On its website, Apple states that it is illegal to track someone or their property with an AirTag.
“They should not be used to track people and should not be used to track property that does not belong to you,” the company says.
Deleon, according to the report of Newburyport Police Officer Matthew Whitty, also broke into his car on February 22 to steal three license plates. He unlocked his car by entering his Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into a BMW app. Between these two incidents, Deleon was sending her intimidating photos and messages, including one showing part of a handgun. The woman eventually filed a Harassment Prevention Order against Deleon in Saugus District Court.
“I asked her if she knew who might have stolen the plates. (Victim) said her ex-boyfriend had been stalking her since yesterday,” Whitty wrote in her report.
The AirTag, according to Whitty’s report, was registered with Deleon. Whitty then requested and obtained an arrest warrant for Deleon.
All of the incidents took place at a time when, according to Essex County District Attorney Shailagh Kennedy, Deleon and his girlfriend were estranged. Kennedy also said the offense in Concord District Court involved a firearm. Kennedy asked Doyle to hold Deleon on $5,000 cash bail for the new charges and revoked his release.
When Deleon was arraigned, the victim was in the courtroom and, according to his attorney, was living with Deleon again. The attorney, Patrick Troy of Boston, said the license plates were returned and the two reconciled.
“She doesn’t want to see him in jail,” Troy said.
Troy asked Doyle to set a lower bail amount and not revoke his release, claiming Deleon was just a passenger in a car where a gun was found, referring to the court case district of Concord.
Doyle, however, sided with Kennedy and revoked Deleon’s release. Deleon is due back in court on April 14 for a preliminary hearing.
Newburyport Police Lt. Matthew Simons said on Monday the Deleon case was the first time he recalled his department investigating an incident involving AirTags and added that the AirTags were just the latest of a series of technological advances meant for good but twisted for criminal purposes.
“Someone will figure out how to use it in a nefarious way,” Simons said.