By Malathi Nayak
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A former salesman who lost his job and ended up homeless admitted in a plea deal on Wednesday to burglarizing Steve Jobs' house and seven other homes in a crime spree capped by his break-in at the late Apple founder's Silicon Valley residence.
In return for his plea of "no contest," legally equivalent to a guilty plea in California, Santa Clara County prosecutors agreed to recommend that Kariem McFarlin, 35, be sentenced to no more than seven years and eight months in prison.
Jailed since his arrest in August, McFarlin would otherwise face a maximum penalty of more than 16 years behind bars when he returns to court for sentencing on January 17, his lawyer said.
McFarlin was originally charged with one count of burglary and one count of receiving stolen property for the July 17 break-in and theft that occurred at Jobs' home while the house was unoccupied and undergoing renovations.
More than $60,000 in jewelry, along with several computers and Jobs' wallet were stolen in the burglary, which came nine months after the high-tech executive had died at age 56 following a lengthy battle with cancer.
The house in Palo Alto, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, had briefly become a shrine for admirers who left flowers outside in the weeks after Jobs' death. McFarlin apparently had no idea the English country-style home belonged to Jobs when he entered the property, authorities said.
The investigation that followed led authorities to a storage locker where McFarlin had stashed stolen goods from previous burglaries he was found to have committed since March of 2011.
The various cases were combined, and he ultimately pleaded no contest to eight counts of first-degree burglary, including the Jobs break-in, and one count of receiving stolen property.
Like Jobs' house, McFarlin had singled out other homes that appeared temporarily vacant during construction or renovation in upscale San Francisco Bay-area communities. Authorities said McFarlin had spent the night in some of them.
A college graduate who once played football for San Jose State University, McFarlin had held steady jobs in sales for 15 years before ending up unemployed, defense attorney James Kellenberger told reporters after Wednesday's hearing.
"After he lost his job, he ended up homeless and living in a car," Kellenberger said.
Police initially tracked down McFarlin with help from Apple investigators, who noticed an iPad stolen from the Jobs house was connected to the company's servers on July 18, the morning after the burglary, according to court documents in the case.
The user of the iPad was re-installing the operating system, and by tracing the Internet connection, police found McFarlin's home in Alameda, just south of Oakland.
Shackled and dressed in green prison garb on Wednesday, McFarlin appeared expressionless through the proceedings and said little except to answer, "no contest," when asked how he would plead to the charges.
(Reporting By Malathi Nayak; Editing by Steve Gorman and Andrew Hay)