Thieves are preying on vulnerable to pull off costly cell crime - KCTV5

Police warn that thieves are preying on vulnerable to pull off costly cell phone crime

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OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -

Thieves are preying on the vulnerable in the metro to pull off a costly crime. It's a national problem that's hitting home.

"It definitely hurts businesses like mine," Kyle McCormick, a Radio Shack manager, said.

It's a scam that's hitting many in the retail cell phone industry across the country, but at least two groups of suspected thieves set their sights on Overland Park this week. How they commit the crime is almost as surprising as how much they make.

"They can make an average of $2,000 a day," Detective Byron Pierce with the Overland Park Police Department said.

But for the scam to work the suspects need a pawn. Police said the group's ring leaders typically stake out blood banks, homeless shelters and charities. In the most recent case, a man approached people at a plasma center in Kansas City, MO. He offered the men there $50 if they agreed to go along with his plan.

"It's kind of frustrating because they are taking advantage of someone," McCormick said.

Once the thieves find a willing participant, they send them into cell phone stores and stores like Radio Shack. They tell them to go after the high-end phones like a Motorola Razr. The phone retails for $800 new, but just $50 with a new service agreement.

"They have no intention of using the service - all they want is the hardware," Pierce said.

And the companies are out of luck. They don't make any money off the service plan, but the cell phone is long gone.

But this week police said when a group from Michigan targeted Best Buy on back-to-back days, the store had already talked with police and were ready when the pawn walked in. Officers arrested Briana Givens, Jaleeco Smith, Anthony Wilburn and Taishon White and charged them with felony theft.

The break was a big get for authorities because, typically, these types of alleged criminals are in and out of town too quickly to catch.

"They are very difficult to catch so, when we were able to catch these travelers, it's a great benefit, not only to the police department, but for the community as well," Pierce said.

Police are hoping that as word spreads about the scam, companies will become more cautious because, the more they lose, the more it ends up costing paying customers.

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