By Brad Edwards

(CBS) – What landed seven New Yorkers in the Lake County, Illinois jail?


As 2 Investigator Brad Edwards reports, Lake County Sheriff’s police have cracked a theft ring focused on high-end smart phones.

An evidence room at the sheriff’s department is telling. It’s filled with iPhones valued at several thousands of dollars.

“It kind of hit us out of the blue,” Detective Andrew Markoya says.

Out-of-state thieves were using stolen identities to buy pricey iPhones.

It began July 20, 2016, on American Airlines Flight 363. Nicole Cannon, 21, flew in from New York and headed directly to the Apple Store in Deer Park.

She spent $1,927 on two iPhone 6-Plus phones. Apple detected she was using a  credit card created with a stolen identity, that of a woman from Columbus, Ohio.

The plot was foiled.

But really it was just beginning. Three days later came Gizelle Diaz and Corbett Ortiz, followed by Quentin Ortiz, Melinda Aquino, Frank Aulet and Simone Signorelli.

Det. Markoya says each suspect was following a clear itinerary. They are potentially foot soldiers in a New York-based theft ring that sells the fraudulently obtained phones in foreign markets for a substantial markup.

As for the victim, the woman from Columbus had no idea her identity was compromised.

“In a lot of these cases, no one’s ever going to be able to tell exactly where their info was released to a criminal element,” Markoya says.

Cannon and four others were found guilty and received jail time. Two others are scheduled to go to trial in the coming weeks.

In all, Lake County Sheriff’s officers recovered more than $10,000 worth of stolen Apple merchandise from the seven New York suspects.

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