Brazen cell phone thieves still on the run

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As cops scramble to find the stick-up men responsible for a daring daylight truck robbery of smartphones, students at Columbus High School are still hung up over their cell phone loss.

“I feel empty,” said 17-year old Mariceli Figueroa, one of dozens of victims in the June 12 robbery. Her iPhone 4S was stolen out of a Safe Mobile Storage truck, a service where students pay $1 to hold their phones while attending the Pelham Parkway school.

Students rely on the service since the Department of Education has banned students from carrying cell phones inside school buildings.

But the service, operated out of a converted U-Haul truck, doesn’t have any security measures such as surveillance cameras to help deter robbers.

It also isn’t even supposed to do business in the city.

Records by the city’s Department of Law show firm owners have been hit with numerous summonses for operating without a license. The company, however, is challenging the summonses in court.

Calls to Safe Mobile Storage were not returned.

The two armed thieves, both wearing bandanas to cover their faces stormed the truck mid-day and tied up two works in the back.

In three minutes, the bandits stuffed the smartphones and cash in a backpack, then sprinted south on Bronxwood Avenue where a silver car was waiting as they dropped off the cell phones before darting into the nearby Pelham Houses by Bronxwood and Wallace Aveneues, said 49th Precinct Deputy Inspector Kevin Nicholson.

“I feel confident in a later date and time these men will be arrested,” he said.

As cops work to track the pair’s whereabouts, victims like Figueroa are asking phone companies to suspend their account.

But phone companies are limited in pinpointing the location of a device since the GPS tracker is not as accurate as television shows like “CSI” lead many to believe, said Verizon spokesman David Samberg.

“Jumping on a computer and seeing if a phone is being used is not something that can be easily done.”

There still is something that can be done with a phone to at least make it useless to anyone, including potential buyers.

Samberg explained customers can place a phone on a Stolen Phone List, a database that keeps track of robbed phones through their International Mobile Equipment Identity number.

If a person from as far away as California were to buy a Verizon phone on eBay, they would not be able to reactivate a phone that’s on the list, according to Samberg.

AT&T is working on creating a similar list and promises to have one up and running shortly.

For now, spokesman Alix Anfangs says phones should be password protected and accounts suspended if they fall into the wrong hands.

Both companies also say customers should consider insuring a phone at an additional monthly charge.

It’s something student Aaron Clark has already done. But despite being cautious, Clark still uses the truck.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-338 or email

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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