Operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team, Edo State Unit have smashed a gang that allegedly specialised in assisting suspected robbers make tracking of stolen phones impossible for owners and policemen.
At least four members of the gang, alleged to be software engineers, have been arrested in Edo State.
The suspects have been identified as Bright Irabor, Benedict Edo, Ernest Ubong and Christian Egbheri.
They were all rounded up at the Oba Market in Benin City after operatives got information about their activities.
A police source said: “IRT operatives, led by a Deputy Superintendent of Police, were deployed to Edo State to combat high rate of kidnapping and armed robbery in state.
“The state has been experiencing difficulty in solving most robbery and kidnapping cases within the state.
“It was also discovered that phones, which were snatched, suddenly became untraceable as a result of changed IMEI.
“The operatives made a breakthrough in tracking members of the syndicate and discovered that the members had been assisting bandits to make these phones untraceable.”
Our reporter gathered that the downfall of the syndicate started after 24-year-old Othuke Samuel, a trader, lost his phone to thieves.
He was going home after close of business when his phone was snatched.
Samuel reported the theft of his phone to the police and a manhunt was launched for the thief.
The thief was later discovered to be Bulama Sani.
The said Sani was arrested after he went to Samuel’s shop to sell him the same stolen phone.
Samuel said: “When he brought the phone to my shop, asking me to buy it, I immediately recognised my phone.
“I then looked at the boy properly.
“I recognised him.
“I kept calm and asked him how much he wanted to sell the phone.
“He said N150,000.
“I then asked him to wait in my shop that I wanted to get some money from the bank.
“I left him at the shop and went straight to the IRT operatives.
“The operatives followed me and arrested him.”
Sani would later tell the operatives that he used to change the IMEI of stolen phones at the Oba Market, Benin City.
“He explained that changing the IMEI naturally makes the phones untraceable.
“He assisted operatives in arresting the software engineers who allegedly used to assist him in changing stolen phones’ IMEI.
The software engineers arrested during the raid at the Oba market confessed to changing IMEI for criminals at a fee of N1,000 per phone.
Edo, one of the suspects and a student of University of Benin, said: “I work at Abuma Shopping Complex in Benin City.
“I repair and flash phones of all kinds.
“I also change IMEI of phones.
“I learned the process of changing IMEI of phones from the internet.
“I’m also aware that it was criminals that were always coming to change IMEI of phones.
“I had already stopped accepting such jobs before police came to arrest me.”
Another suspect, Egbheria, said he was aware that changing IMEI of phones was criminal.
He, however, explained that he engaged in it because the money was attractive.
He explained that the process of changing a phone IMEI was easy and all that one needed was to access the phone’s software, wipe off the old code and replace it with a new one.
Egbheria added that those who usually seek them out for such jobs come with more than one phone.