Reward increased for info in series of cell phone store burglaries
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A series of cell phone store burglaries in Houston may be more than just your average thefts. Investigators are now worried organized thieves may be part of a plan to send the stolen phones out of the country.
The Harris County sheriff says he's not only trying to stop a long series of cell phone store burglaries, but there are growing concerns about where the stolen phones are ending up, and who's receiving them.
In every burglary, the M.O. is the same. Surveillance video shows four or five guys -- wearing dark colors, long sleeves, with covered heads and faces -- break into the cell phone stores long after closing.
"In these cases, they're breaking in the wee hours of the morning," Harris County Sheriff's Office Lt. Jeff Stauber said.
They ransack the store, making off with thousands of dollars in merchandise and leave behind a mess. They've hit 81 times all over the Houston area.
Some of these cell phone stores were targeted more than once by the burglars. One Sprint store was hit twice -- once in December and once in January.
"They are targeting specifically smartphones," Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia said.
In a Crime Stoppers news conference Wednesday, Garcia said investigators are not seeing those phones back on the street and they're not popping up on domestic cellular networks.
"These phones may be going overseas, which could fall in the hands of international terrorists," he said.
Investigators think there may be four or five crews of guys, filling orders for stolen smartphones.
And while you can't see the burglars' faces, investigators hope things like an unusual jacket, seen in two different burglaries, will help led them to the criminals.
"Family members are out there, they're going to recognize one of their children, their ex-boyfriend," Garcia said.
Crime Stoppers will pay up to $15,000 for any information called in to the 713-222-TIPS (8477) or submitted online at www.crime-stoppers.org that leads to the filing of felony charges or arrest of the suspect(s) in this case. Tips can also be sent by text message. Text TIP610 plus your tip to CRIMES (274637). All tipsters remain anonymous.
crime tracker, adela uchida
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