Private Investigator uses cyber skills to track down stolen iPad

A night out on the town turned sour when Ralph Howe and his wife realized someone had broken into their car and stolen a purse, iPad and iPhone.

Unfortunately for the thief Howe has been a licensed private investigator for more than 30 years.

Howe and his wife were enjoying a beer and a sunset downtown Saturday night before they returned to their car, finding broken glass and items missing. They filed a police report and went home, but the next morning, Howe decided to put his investigative skills to work.

"I took it personal, and it was personal. I was very frustrated," Howe told NBC 10 in an exclusive interview.

Howe used a GPS tracking feature on the iPad called Find My iPad. The same feature can be found on other Apple devices. The tracking system allowed them to chase the suspect the next day in real time as he drove more than 80 miles across Rhode Island and Massachusetts with the iPad.

Eventually Howe tracked the suspect back to Providence, within two miles of where the theft took place, at a car wash.

"He wasn't vacuuming his car, he wasn't washing his car and he wasn't getting gas or going to the convenience store," Howe said of how he narrowed down who the thief might be.

After about 45 minutes of surveillance, Howe was certain he had the right person. He called police, who met him at the scene and arrested Miguel Dejesus, 32, of Providence.

Howe's wife was able to identify and unlock her iPhone immediately. The iPad, though, was nowhere to be found. Howe's son, working from a computer somewhere else, was able to use iCloud to ping the device, which police found underneath a car seat in the back seat of the suspect's car.

Howe tells NBC 10 people should know how to use these features, so if something like this happens, they can find out where the stolen item is and give police a call for help.

Dejesus has been charged with one count of receiving stolen goods, which is a misdemeanor.