Police raid cell phone stores suspected of selling stolen phones

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago police are cracking down on the secondhand market where thieves sell stolen phones.

In Chicago, cell phone stores seem to be on every corner and many of them not only sell new phones, but also sell and repair used phones. Police say those stores often give thieves who steal phones a place to sell them.

That's why the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance that increased restrictions on dealers in September.

"The goal of the ordinance was to devalue stolen cell phones by limiting the ability of thieves to resell them," said Chief Anthony Riccio, Chicago Police Dept.

Last week, police raided more than 40 cell phone dealers in neighborhoods where high numbers of cell phone thefts have been reported.

"The public is falling victim to so much crime related to stolen cell phones," said Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareno.

Police say during the raid they issued citations to 14 dealers and seized 150 cell phones.

Among the locations were four booths at the Super Mall at 52nd and Pulaski. The owners at two other locations said off-camera that they don't buy stolen phones, but police believe otherwise.

"I'm absolutely certain that a large number of them are going to come up stolen," Riccio said.

According to the new ordinance, dealers are required to run used phones through national database, hold phones for 30 days before reselling and check ID from the seller. Sellers also have to undergo background checks.

"These stores are everywhere selling used cell phones and they are not going through proper checks," Escareno said.

Police say dealers have been paying top dollar for used cell phones - $500-700 depending on the models. The dealers who spoke to Eyewitness News denied any wrongdoing and said it is online sellers who are to blame.
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