You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Smartphones increasing target for theft

Eight local people face felony charges for 60 cellphone store break-ins.


They’re relatively small, expensive, and universally desired. That makes smartphones a prime target for thieves.

Earlier this week the Ohio Attorney General’s office announced six adults and two juveniles — all from the Dayton area — face felony charges for “smash and grab” break-ins at more than 60 cellphone stores in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Officials believe the group is responsible for $300,000 in thefts between April 2012 and this past January.

The arrests spotlight a growing problem as mobile traffic skyrockets: thefts of the devices that drive that traffic. According to the Federal Communications Commission, a mobile phone accounted for one out of every three items stolen in 2011; in larger cities, the rate may climb to 40 percent of reported thefts.

A 2012 Consumer Reports survey estimated 1.6 million phones were stolen from Americans that year.

“They knew where everything was. They only stole the expensive ones,” said Mohamed Redha, owner of Infinite Wireless, whose Miamisburg store was one of the 60 that reported getting hit. Redha’s store in January had60 smartphones and two laptops stolen, he said.

Redha said he grew wary of a purported customer the day before the break-in. The woman examined the store interior and inquired about how many iPhones Redha stocked. He awoke about 4 a.m. the next morning and decided to check in on the store’s surveillance camera from home. His suspicion was confirmed when the monitor showed a Miamisburg officer at the store’s shattered glass door. About the same time he got a call from his alarm company.

“There were three of them. They were in and out in 30 seconds,” he said.

Lt. Eric Johnson of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, the lead department on the case, said the crimes took place so quickly that even a good, functioning alarm system was no deterrent.

“A lot of these places had alarm systems. But they could be in and out quicker than we could ever get the call and dispatched out to the scene,” Johnson said. “Having a really good, working video surveillance system — that was pivotal in really turning the tide on this investigation.”

Johnson said breaks in the cases starting coming when Warren County Sheriff’s Det. Jerry Nissengger brought in other departments to compare video. The multi-state investigation ultimately included 56 local jurisdictions along with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

“There were also some items that were very distinctive to these groups we kept seeing pop up on the videos,” Johnson said. “So we knew we were dealing with the same group of individuals.”

He said investigators had little to no ability to track the stolen phones.

“They were pretty smart in figuring out how to hide them from us,” he said.

The resale market for stolen smartphones is high, particularly overseas. “A phone may go for $200, $300, $400 around here, but there are places where you can get double that for those phones,” Johnson said.

Last year, California officials arrested two individuals accused of buying stolen smartphones for resale in Hong Kong where iPhones reportedly fetch up to $2,000. California authorities say the scheme netted $4 million in less than a year.

Redha said he now removes all the company’s stock from display cases when he leaves for the day. Another option — bars over the windows — was considered but rejected. Redha worries about the image it would project to customers.

Bob Bowman, coordinator of the Investigating Retail Organized Crime Task Force, said nothing short of a large safe would have slowed down the Dayton-based ring. Landlords don’t always permit storefront covers and bars over doors and windows, he said.

A handful of state legislatures, most recently New York, have moved to require an anti-theft “kill switch” that would make a mobile phone inoperable. The industry has so far opposed such legislation, however, because of the costs involved for replacement phones.

The industry does support a national Mobile Device Deterrence Act introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York. The bill seeks a five-year sentence for those who tamper with stolen phone ID numbers. Schumer was also instrumental in setting up a national stolen cell phone database administered by the FCC and major cell phone carriers.

Bowman said stopping cellphone theft rings can put a big dent in local crime by getting the perpetrators off the street. But, he said, “It’s not unlike the drug trafficking business where there are always a few other people willing to step up and take their place.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Crime

Overdoses have doubled in Clark County in the past 24 hours
Overdoses have doubled in Clark County in the past 24 hours

Clark County has seen at least 13 opioid-related drug overdoses in the past 24 hours, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The state department sent an alert to the Clark County Combined Health District today. RELATED: Springfield partnership shows promise for heroin-addicted moms The increase is double the county’s current average of...
Former Wittenberg professor acquitted of rape in 2013 killed in Florida
Former Wittenberg professor acquitted of rape in 2013 killed in Florida

A former Wittenberg professor that was acquitted of rape in Clark County in 2013 was killed in a knife and hammer attack near Tampa, Florida, according to a report from the Miami Herald. Hollant Maxford Adrien, 56, was killed last week after a 20-year-old man told police the former professor was making unwanted sexual advances near a Manatee County...
Police officer accused of assaulting 5-year-old
Police officer accused of assaulting 5-year-old

A polilce officer in Revere, Massachusetts, was arrested over the weekend on charges of child abuse. Police say Marcos Garcia, 32, of Saugus, physically abused the 5-year-old child of a woman he was having an affair with. The child, who is not being identified by name or gender, is now in the care of a family member. Neighbors in Saugus say Garcia...
Pulse gunman's widow pleads not guilty to 2 federal charges
Pulse gunman's widow pleads not guilty to 2 federal charges

The widow of the gunman who opened fire on a crowd gathered at Florida's Pulse nightcub last June pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two federal charges during a hearing in California. Noor Salman, 30, is charged with obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting the attempted provision of material support to a foreign terrorist organization. A...
'Will and Grace' returning to television
'Will and Grace' returning to television

Hit television series "Will and Grace" will return to television for a 2017-2018 season. >> Read more trending stories   NBC announced the show's 10-episode revival Wednesday.   THEY'RE BACK! Your favorite foursome is returning to NBC!#WillAndGrace pic.twitter.com/Xoz4lSHSgM— NBC (@nbc) January 18, 2017 "We're...
More Stories