Old loot for new cellphones

A wave of armed robberies at cell phone stores is worrying the industry

Posted at 5:00 am

Emilie Bilodeau

Emilie Bilodeau
The Press

“Everyone on earth! »A huge wave of armed robberies hit the Montreal area. In broad daylight, hooded thieves recently robbed more than twenty cell phone stores. They point their guns at employees and customers, then walk away carrying thousands of dollars worth of electronics.

Last Sunday, two masked men entered a Videotron store in Gatineau when it was crowded with customers. It was almost 1 pm

“They ordered eight customers to lie on the ground and picked up their phones one by one so that no one would call 911,” said Paul Milot, the branch owner.

“They knew very well what they were doing. They asked [deux] employees who enter into shop in the back, to unlock the trunk, and they removed the fleshy flesh. Employees have guns pointed at them throughout, ”Mr. Milot explained.

This theft in Gatineau is far from being an isolated case. Since April, The Press identified at least 20 armed thefts that occurred at Videotron stores, but also La Source, Fido, Bell, Rogers and Telus. They occurred in Saint-Eustache, Longueuil, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Saint-Jérôme and Vaudreuil to name a few.


PHOTO PHILIPPE BOIVIN, THE PRESS

The message is displayed at the entrance of a Videotron store in Longueuil

In Boisbriand, two hooded and armed men stole phones from Rogers on May 13. Although this was the only theft committed in the territory of Régie intermunicipale de police Thérèse-De Blainville recently, police are still speaking. a “disturbing wave”.

“It’s disturbing in terms of the violence used by the suspects. They use weapons and make threats,” Inspector Martin Charron explained. During the 32 years of service, the police do not remember that he saw so many thefts, so close.

The Longueuil agglomeration police department confirmed that two armed robberies took place recently in its territory. “The investigation is ongoing, but the explanation [selon laquelle] that the phones are destined for other countries is credible, ”said agent Mélanie Mercille.

Minor suspects

Two masked thieves also robbed Pierre’s store on an April afternoon. As soon as they entered the door, the robbers pointed their guns at the heads of the two employees. There are no customers in the store.

“They are not shouting. They are quite calm, but very directive. They immediately asked to go to shop in the back and open the safe. They didn’t even ask if we had money, ”explained the franchisee, who was not authorized to speak to the media.

In Pierre’s case, the thieves seized approximately 50 devices with a total value of more than $ 55,000. They are particularly interested in the new iPhone 13 Pro Max, which sells for $ 1,550.

Police have been able to arrest seven suspects since the end of April, but the crimes continue. On May 18 alone, three thefts occurred on the same day. The next day, two thefts took place in Longueuil and Saint-Jérôme. On the same day, the bandits missed their shot at the Videotron store in Quartier DIX30, where they approached the locked doors.

The ages of the suspects ranged from 15 to 23, and at least three of them were minors.

Street crimes?

According to André Gélinas, a retired police officer from the intelligence section of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, these series of thefts resemble the crimes of street gangs. “Gangs aren’t just into drugs, so maybe they got into that. Interesting for them to use young people. Some are easily manipulated and impressionable if given money and a guns. »

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) said that “criminals hope to profit from these crimes by selling stolen devices to unsuspecting individuals.”

We encourage individuals to only purchase devices from trusted and dependable sources.

CSTA Marketing Director Nicholas Kyonka

Once phones are stolen, they are put on a blacklist managed by ACTS and automatically blocked anywhere in Canada. However, they can be shipped overseas, where they will work.

Since the beginning of the week, Videotron stores have permanently locked the doors of their businesses. Customers must show their face and show ID to enter.

“The stress level from hearing so much theft is still high,” franchisee Pierre said. “It’s not just the two employees present at the theft that are affected: all employees are affected. Last week, I had a resignation from someone who was afraid to experience this. He prefers to find another job, ”the businessman said.

What to do before buying the phone from a reseller?

Consumers looking for a cell phone in the ads can check if the device has been reported stolen or lost. To do this, they must enter the 15-digit IMEI number into the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association’s search engine. This number can be found in the device settings or near the battery. You can dial *# 06# on most phones to get the IMEI number.

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