FBI: Gang mem­bers ar­rested in phone thefts from 9 states

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - NEWS - By Mark Gil­lispie

CLEVE­LAND >> Mem­bers of a vi­o­lent Ohio street gang have been charged in fed­eral court for their in­volve­ment in the thefts of $500,000 worth of cell­phones and elec­tronic de­vices from stores and shop­ping malls in nine states out­side of Ohio, an FBI spokes­woman said Thurs­day.

FBI agents and Cleve­land po­lice de­tec­tives ar­rested three mem­bers of the Heart­less Felon gang early Thurs­day, the spokes­woman said. Four al­ready were in­car­cer­ated for other crimes, and one is be­ing sought by au­thor­i­ties.

The crew of seven men and one woman stole phones and de­vices from 18 stores and mall kiosks be­tween April and July 2016, ac­cord­ing to an FBI af­fi­davit. The gang mem­bers would bring the phones back to Cleve­land and sell them to gas sta­tions and phone stores, which in turn sold some of them overseas. The eight sus­pects range in age from 20 to 35.

The thefts oc­curred in Penn­syl­va­nia, In­di­ana, Mary­land, South Carolina, Illi­nois, Michi­gan, New Jer­sey, Wis­con­sin and New York.

Sev­eral vi­o­lent in­ci­dents have been at­trib­uted to Heart­less Felon mem­bers, in­clud­ing a triple homi­cide at a sub­ur­ban Cleve­land bar­ber­shop. One of the men charged in the thefts faces ag­gra­vated mur­der charges for an armed rob­bery and shootout in Septem­ber at a gas sta­tion that re­sulted in an ac­com­plice be­ing killed. Heart­less Felons is one of largest gangs in Ohio’s prison sys­tem.

The FBI said gang mem­bers would wait un­til af­ter a store or mall kiosk had closed or was about to close to pry open draw­ers or locked stor­age cab­i­nets with crow­bars, throw the phones into bags and dash out­side to get­away ve­hi­cles. The sus­pects ap­pear to have re­ceived help from store em­ploy­ees in some of the thefts, the FBI said.

Agents used images from the sus­pects’ In­sta­gram ac­counts to link the cloth­ing they were wear­ing at the time of the thefts to video cap­tured by sur­veil­lance cam­eras.

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