Phone thieves hit Cloquet Wal-Mart
Thieves stole in excess of $21,000 worth of cell phones from the Cloquet Wal-Mart electronics department Monday, Aug. 11, according to Cloquet Police Detective Derek Randall. The investigation is ongoing, he said.
Randall said the Cloquet Police Department has some suspect information and surveillance footage, but police were waiting to hear from federal agents in case the theft is related to a federal case involving a smartphone theft ring run by the Mustafa family in the Twin Cities. Arrests in that case were made Aug. 12, the day after the 34 phones were stolen in Cloquet.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, a group that federal agents refer to as the “Mustafa Organization” in the Twin Cities allegedly paid runners who stole mobile devices or obtained them fraudulently by other means.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger listed 11 different runners who were allegedly paid by the Mustafa organization to steal or fraudulently obtain mobile devices by contract or subscription fraud. They targeted stores like Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Verizon outlets, T-mobile stores and online Apple Stores, using stolen or fake identity information. The stolen phones were shipped overseas — where a new iPhone 5 can sell for as much as $1,200 — using the cover of wireless phone stores owned by the Mustafa family.
Randall said the police are asking for the public’s help to identify the thieves. (See attached photos.) He also warned people considering buying a phone from any third-party retailer, private seller or online site to first obtain the IMEI or serial number from the phone and contact the carrier to ensure it is not flagged as stolen.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Cloquet Police Department at 218-879-1247 or access the department's anonymous tip line via Nixle. People can access Nixle online through the Cloquet Police Department Facebook and Twitter pages (facebook/cloquetpolicemn, twitter/cloquetpolicemn), or by texting 55720 to 888-777. Registration literally takes less than five minutes — all that’s required is your name, email, phone number, and a password.