Charges have been filed against a former Utah State University employee accused of stealing thousands of dollars worth of computers and hardware from the university.
Terry Jason Trinkella, 34, faces four counts of third-degree burglary, one count of third-degree theft and four additional misdemeanor theft charges.
Trinkella is set to make an initial appearance in 1st District Court on Sept. 22.
According to a series of search warrants filed with the court, police began investigating several computer and hardware thefts occurring at the USU campus and the South Farm Campus. Police wrote the thefts occurred in highly accessible classrooms used to transmit USU courses electronically. Surveillance footage depicted a man — later identified as Trinkella — carrying a large, square item in a garbage bag to a university registered vehicle.
According to a warrant, police located the university vehicle with doors unsecured and began locking the doors as per established university directives. Police noticed several hard drives wedged under the driver’s seat while the vehicle’s doors were open. After obtaining a warrant to search Trinkella’s backpack and tool case, police seized over 40 items including hard drives, SD cards and other hardware. Police wrote the hard drives were associated with professors and instructors at USU.
USU Police Captain Kent Harris said Trinkella was “very cooperative” with police and voluntarily turned over several other items located at his home. Harris estimated the total value of the stolen items between $5,000 and $10,000. Harris said several of the recovered items were unknowingly stolen or may not function properly. With several students learning online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris said their learning paths will be affected.
“It’s going to affect the learning environment for a period of time until we can figure out where all these components go,” Harris said. “This type of crime hurts everybody.”
According to Harris, Trinkella is purported to have sold many of the allegedly stolen items which have yet to be recovered. According to warrants, Trinkella is alleged to have sold many of the items via social media and had forgotten many of the transactions.
Harris said police are working with the USU Information Technology Department to identify where all the recovered equipment goes so when students and instructors return, the learning environment isn’t disrupted any further. According to Harris, police are also working with risk management and access control to limit access to particular areas.
“It’s policy of the university that we’re not going to tolerate criminal activity here on campus,” Harris said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure that something like this doesn’t occur again, and it’s taking a coordinated effort with all the departments on campus.”
While unsure what motivated the thefts, Harris said the crime appeared to be one of opportunity — with few people on campus to notice the missing items. Harris championed those who reported the thefts, the detectives who subsequently investigated and USU security staff who initially noticed suspicious activity.
“If you see something, say something,” Harris said. “If something just doesn’t seem right, or out of the ordinary, call your local law enforcement agency and report that.”