Natalie Packer was a patient at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center undergoing treatment for breast cancer last summer when she went into cardiac arrest. As responders rushed in to try to resuscitate Packer -- an attempt that ultimately was unsuccessful -- her iPad and glasses disappeared.
Packer's family used the device's Find My iPad app a few days later and saw it was still in the hospital -- and had been reregistered with Apple as "Virginia's iPad." After Packer's family hired a private investigator and went to the police, Virginia Nguyen, then a third-year medical student at UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine, was arrested in March with Packer's iPad on her.
"While everybody was trying to save Natalie's life, Virginia was busy stealing her iPad and glasses," Packer's uncle, Sam Heller, told The Huffington Post in a call on Tuesday.
When family members initially went to the police, Heller said, they were treated flippantly and told it was just an iPad so it wasn't worth the trouble.
"To my niece, it was her iPad," said Heller, who helped raise Packer, "and you don't steal from the dead."
More importantly, though, Packer had been recording her passwords for different accounts -- banking, checking, mortgage and so on -- for her sister to use after she died. Once the family saw the iPad was missing, they closed all of the accounts because of security concerns, which complicated their handling of her affairs.
The district attorney filed criminal charges in July, almost a year after Packer's death. On Friday, Nguyen appeared in court. A plea agreement was considered, which "would entail community service, but no prison or jail time," according to NBC Los Angeles.
Nguyen initially pleaded not guilty to charges of petty theft, grand theft of lost property, and unlawfully controlling and deleting data from a computer device, NBC Los Angeles reported. Nguyen said she had picked up the iPad by mistake, thinking it was hers, and was too scared of the repercussions to return it.
Nguyen is "not currently employed at UCLA," the university noted in a statement provided to HuffPost. Although the university cannot comment on this particular case, it said, "our medical school has an Honor Code and other policies which set and uphold the highest standards for professional conduct."
Nguyen's attorney did not return HuffPost's request for comment.
The case has been continued until Nov. 7. Heller says this is because the UCLA police had not previously investigated the missing eyeglasses, but are doing so now.
Heller acknowledges it is not important to get the iPad back, especially without his niece's information on it anymore, but he wants justice for the breach of trust.
When you go to the doctor, Heller said, you "expect absolute trust. You shouldn't have to worry" that your belongings might be taken.