Wake Schools laptops wind up on black market

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Wake County Public School System laptops were being sold on the other side of the world – that’s what CBS North Carolina discovered after being alerted by a viewer.

Several years ago, Wake County Schools began a program to put laptops in the hands of students but CBS North Carolina found 35 Wake County Schools laptops ended up in the hands of an internet seller in Singapore.

Eventually, the school system intends to have 52,000 laptops in county classrooms but a couple of month’s back, something happened to a shipment of 35 new computers that were being held in a warehouse.

“During the hurricane, one box got wet so we returned the box to Lenovo,” said school spokeswoman Lisa Luten.

The school system was worried that the water could have internally damaged the computers.

Lenovo spokesman Raymond Gorman said the laptops were supposed to be disassembled for recycling by a firm they called a “certified business partner.”

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But instead of recycling the laptop parts, Gorman said investigation by the company found the Lenovo vendor sold the computers.

The laptops ended up overseas on the black market.

That’s where CBS North Carolina found them on a website.

Screen captures from the site showed they were still in their original plastic wrappers and still had the Wake County Schools logo etched on them.

They were for sale for the equivalent of $400 dollars apiece.

CBS North Carolina asked Luten how the school system reacted when CBS North Carolina informed them computers were being sold overseas.

“We wanted to make sure it wasn’t an issue here in our building,” said Luten who said the school system began checking the paper trail involving the purchase.

CBS North Carolina also checked with Lenovo, providing them with photographs of the laptops from the internet that contained serial numbers, and other data.

Gorman said the company had no idea the laptops had been sold by their business partner until we brought it to their attention.

Gorman also said once Lenovo figured out what happened, the company “immediately ceased doing business” with that firm.

Wake County Schools also didn’t realize their returned laptops had ended up in Singapore until CBS North Carolina told them.

One of the school system’s biggest concerns was to make sure the black-market trade didn’t happen with-in their system.

“What we’re worried about is, are taxpayers dollars being compromised? The answer is no. Was there a security issue here? No,” Luten said.

Lenovo said they are now in the process of recovering the laptops that were put up for sale on the internet and monitoring its vendors closely.

Although Lenovo ended its relationship with that vendor, Gorman said the firm prefers not to say if the company will take legal action against those who diverted the laptops to the black market.

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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