CHICAGO -- Chicago police made arrests in a fencing ring believed to be responsible for stealing and reselling hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of smart phones and other electronic equipment.
A 7 month long investigation dubbed “Operation: Hot Corner” led them to an unassuming storefront in the Lawndale neighborhood.
Commander Karen Konow and members of the Chicago Police Department’s Asset Forfeiture Unit showed a selection of the stolen items at a news conference Friday. More than 100 smart phones, computers, tablets and other electronics believed to be worth at least 500-thousand dollars were involved.
“It’s one thing if you want to arrest just one offender, but it’s another if you want to undermine an enterprise that’s fueling some of the problems in the community,” Commander Konow said. “They were trafficking in counterfeit merchandise.”
Police say the items were being sold by ABC Choice from a storefront and its online business.
The fencing ring’s profits were fueled by violent robberies.
“It’s a cycle of crime that feeds a cycle of violence,” Commander Konow said.
Thursday, Chicago police arrested Mohamed Hejaz and Bakr Shahen.
They have both been charged with felony counts of operating a continuing criminal enterprise.
Police say they recovered two weapons and seized computer equipment as evidence.
The pair apparently used a sophisticated device for unlocking phones called an “OctoPlus.”
“Interestingly enough, there was a device recovered that can outsmart and outwit the security system on smart phones and make them re-sellable,” Commander Konow said.
Authorities say information from a confidential informant led to a 7 month surveillance operation. And help from a major phone company and Department of Homeland Security led to the bust.
Customers of ABC Choice say they had no idea the items were stolen, but were somewhat suspicious of the low prices for high-end phones.
Police say they’re happy they’ve gotten to the root of a problem that was spurring violent crime.