Transcript-gate continues: Spy-cam found in registrar's office
His modeling pictures show Joshua Peter Gomes as a man comfortable in front of a camera. Now, according to a search warrant, Gomes appears at ease in front of a camera even when, authorities allege, he was breaking into the University of Virginia's registrar's office.
Gomes, 25, a now-former UVA law student, was arrested outside of Carruthers Hall on Emmet Street around 3am December 7 and charged with two counts of breaking and entering and one of possession of burglary tools.
UVA police assert that employees at the registrar's office had noticed a few things amiss and contacted University Police December 6 to investigate a B&E. Officer J. Thacker noticed what some might consider an ordinary coat hook mounted on a wall inside the registrar's office. But that was no ordinary coat hook.
As many voyeurs already know, tiny cameras can be mounted inside household objects, and the Internet is replete with coat hooks pre-installed with a micro video-cam.
Examining the output from the spy-device camera, Officer Thacker allegedly saw the image of a black male clearly facing the camera, a man who then turned to go rifling through a file cabinet before departing the scene. The image was time-stamped 3am on December 5, and the man was identified as Gomes.
Why anyone would want video imagery of activity inside a registrar's office was unsaid in the court file, and the UVA police spokesperson declined to answer questions about the case.
During a search of Gomes' Westfield Road residence, police allegedly obtained the original packing box for a camera disguised as a coat hook, along with its receipt from Brickhouse Security, a purveyor of nannycams, GPS tracking devices, and other items for times "when you need to know."
The Secret Coat Hook Video Recorder costs $79.99 and requires the separate purchase of a micro SD card and adapter for $24.95. What is included in the base price is motion-detection recording, something that seems to have backfired on whoever appeared in the frame.
According to Brickhouse, the coat hook recorder "let's you keep track of what's going on in your home or office without raising any unnecessary eyebrows," according to the product description. "No one will ever suspect that this common household object is actually secretly recording their every move."
During the 8am December 7 search of Gomes' residence, police also found a folder with official registrar envelopes and transcript pages, a sealed envelope with a transcript labeled "Joshua Peter Gomes," three sealed registrar's envelopes, and a silver lock.
Gomes' silver Nissan Murano also held potentially incriminating materials, like red-handled bolt cutters, the packaging for a lock, and Command Strips– a brand of double-sided foam tape acclaimed for quickly adhering fixtures to walls.
A third search warrant enabled the search of the hoodie and black fleece vest that Gomes was wearing when arrested.
In an interview with police after his arrest, Gomes allegedly revealed that he'd gotten a text message from someone asking if he'd "gotten the files," according to the affidavit. Reached by a reporter on his mobile phone, Gomes declined all comment.
Gomes was released from jail December 9, and– although banned from the UVA Grounds– has permission to return to his hometown, Waterford, Connecticut, over the holidays. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 12.
UVA Law School is considered one of America's most selective, a top-ten school for budding lawyers, with out-of-state tuition for the current school year standing at $49,600.