By John Nova Lomax
December 16, 2010
If you believe what Jason Woytek has written about himself on the Internet, you'd think he was a man of many and varied achievements: a man of God, a top salesman, budding author, an Eagle Scout and an elite former soldier. Woytek claims to have been an Army sniper who also worked PsyOps in top-secret missions in the steamy jungles of Central America in the late '80s and early '90s, and plans on writing up those adventures in an upcoming novel.
That's what it says on his Facebook, and LinkedIn pages, anyway.
On the other hand, if you believe what is written about Jason Woytek by others – specifically, the Harris County District Attorney's office – you'd think he was nothing but a sneak-thief, albeit a sneak-thief on a grand scale.
According to a complaint filed by the DA's office, the proud member of the South Texas Ayn Rand Society swiped no fewer than 67 laptops from the stockroom where he clerked at the Harris County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority and hocked them at area pawn shops. Fair market value for the laptops is said to be a shade under $40,000, which is why the 40-year-old Woytek now stands accused of second degree felony theft by a public servant.
Woytek's alleged scheme started to unravel in October through a lead found by an HPD crime analyst on an anti-theft law enforcement Web site called Leadsonline.com.
An HPD officer followed up on the online lead at a Sharpstown pawn shop. There he found 14 laptops allegedly pawned by Woytek, one or more of which would, on booting up, flash an error message reading words to the effect that the laptop could not find the MHMRA server.
While the officer was still in the pawn shop, Woytek so happened to walk in, and he had a few more laptops with him. The pawnbroker pointed Woytek out to the cop, who introduced himself and inquired about the provenance of the computers, both those he had pawned in the past and those he planned to hock that day. Woytek assured the cop that he was legit; he said he would happily provide a receipt from the auction where he had bought them.
Woytek did provide a receipt the next day, but the cops and MHMRA both say it was bogus. The cop contacted Woytek's higher-up at MHMRA, who told him that some of the laptops were listed as missing from their stockroom, and that Woytek should not have had them.
That triggered the cop's great laptop round-up. Eventually he would visit 29 pawn shops in Harris County, from which he was able to get back 60 of MHMRA's 67 missing laptops. According to the complaint, Woytek pawned them all and used his own name and info when doing so. Nine pawnbrokers picked Woytek out of photo line-ups, and in some other shops, the cops have video of Woytek pawning MHMRA laptops. At the shops where he was not filmed or ID'd by witnesses, the information on the pawn tickets is exactly the same as the places where he was.
You get the feeling from his Facebook wall that Woytek might have had a premonition of some kind. Back in October, a week before his chat with the cops in the pawn shop, he posted this status update: "Arrrgh... saw the light at the end of the tunnel... then I relized it was attached to a train :(..." And then the day after his chance meeting with the fuzz, he had this to say:"Wish I had gotten more than an hour of sleep last night :("
Woytek was not officially charged until Monday, and as of this writing, he is still in jail, his bond set at a cool $80,000. If convicted of the second-degree theft charge, Woytek could get two to 20 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. (Cops later tacked on a penny-ante little weed possession charge too.)