Stolen smartphone ring is busted

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Stolen smartphone ring is busted

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Police busted 38 people, including teenagers, in a ring involved in selling lost and stolen smartphones to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao.

The Gwangjin Police Precinct said yesterday they arrested and detained seven brokers in the business. They charged 31 additional suspects, including 14 teens, without detaining them.

Many of the smartphones were left accidentally in taxis. But some were stolen by the suspects, especially the teens, from schools and public saunas.

The police said one of the brokers, surnamed Lee, purchased as many as 7,000 smartphones, worth 6.3 billion won ($5.5 million) at retail price from July 2011. He paid an average of 250,000 won for each phone and smuggled them mainly to Hong Kong and Macao, taking in 140 million won. The police identified Lee as the head of the ring.

The ring paid the most for Galaxy S3 phones, around 400,000 won each.

Another trader surnamed Kang posted ads on the Internet for used and stolen smartphones. Through the ads, the suspect bought around 600 units and sold them to the ring for 40 million won.

Authorities said cab drivers were involved in the racket.

A taxi driver surnamed Jeon bought around 400 smartphones from fellow cab drivers and sold them to brokers over a six-month period, making 16 million won. The drivers picked up phones mistakenly left by passengers in cabs and instantly turned them off to prevent owners from locating them. Remote wiping and disabling devices did not disrupt the business, the police said.

“We expect more of such crimes because the black market has grown and it’s easy to access,” said Lee Kyu-dong, a deputy director at the Gwangjin Police Precinct.

Investigators planed to expand the probe by tracking down the arrested suspects’ contacts.

By Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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