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Computer thief jailed, must pay restitution

Stealing computers from work landed a former county employee in jail.

David Elston Barnes, 58, of the 200 block of Florence Avenue, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court to a charge of first-degree theft. A charge of first-degree aggravated theft was dismissed under an agreement with the District Attorney's Office.

Judge Ray White ordered Barnes to spend 20 days in jail, complete two years of supervised probation and pay &

36;11,573 in restitution to the county.

A former mental health skills trainer, Barnes was fired from his job with the county several days after his arrest in late March. He admitted to stealing nine computers and four monitors from the county last year and apologized to other county employees. He sold the computers in an attempt to cover his gambling debts, he said.

I really regret it; it's a mistake, he told the in a March interview.

Barnes stole the brand-new computers ' still in their boxes ' from a locked storage room in the county Health and Human Services building on East Main Street, investigators said. He used a county-owned van to transport the computers, said Karen Loomis, deputy district attorney.

Some of the machines were shipped to California by Greyhound bus and sold in a computer store owned by an acquaintance of Barnes, investigators said. Others were stored at Barnes' home and in rented storage units.

Barnes received money for the sales in California via Western Union, investigators said. He also sold two monitors that were advertised in the classified section.

Police said they received an anonymous tip about the thefts, which had gone unsolved since the computers were first reported stolen in October 2001.

An 11-year county employee, Barnes said he had been attending Gamblers Anonymous for the past five years and had sought personal counseling.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail .