4 Suspects Burned as Cell Phone Theft Heats Up


by Morgan Fogarty
Bio | Email | Follow: @morganfogarty by Photographer Adam Stevens
by Photographer Darnell Hart

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - 20-year-old Qdarius Hamer, 16-year-old Jeremy Thrasher, 18-year-old Jamie Lewis and 31-year-old Melissa Arrington are charged with a string of cell phone store break-ins.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say their spree happened between June 4th and July 10th.

They're accused of hitting store after store after store.  Six in all.  More than $58,000 in property damage and stolen goods.  Their M.O., the same: smash the glass store front and steal as many smart phones as possible.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Lt. Brian Sanders says, "The suspects are looking for quick entry. They can get in within 15 seconds. They can get their product in another 30. And they're out in less than a minute."

Sanders is recommending stores harden themselves, maybe consider putting all devices in a safe at night or  installing rolling grates to deter criminals.  Employees at a Sprint store in south Charlotte, one of the targets in this spree, tell us some of their stores have installed the grates.

And a guy who manages a T-Mobile store that was hit (and lost more than $22,000 in merchandise) is also considering what to do next.  Jay Hardy says, "It still, to this day, it still weighs a lot because now I have to call, double check, make sure things are locked up and secure."

He's hoping the suspects get more than a slap on the wrist.  But stealing cell phones is increasingly attractive to lots of criminals; there's an underground market for them or they're sold back to stores, which are unable to tell the phones are stolen.  Cops are promising to keep on it.  "They're criminals. They've been criminals. They'll remain criminals until we put them in prison," says Sanders.

CMPD busted another cell phone theft ring in January, accused of lifting more than $85,000 in merchandise.  Police warn: the more these guys steal, the likelier the losses will be passed along to the customer.

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