Brown Targets Stolen Phones

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An Ohio senator said during a news conference in Youngstown on Monday that he plans to propose a bill that would increase penalties for those convicted of tampering with stolen cell phones.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon Lake, said Monday he will introduce a bill called the Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act of 2013 that would impose maximum penalties of up to five years in federal prison for anyone who tampers with a stolen cell phone in order to reactivate it and sell it on the black market.

Brown said criminals target cell phones for theft because they can be resold illegally. He said most carriers deactivate a stolen cell phone’s internal memory card rather than the entire phone, which are easily reactivated.

The Federal Communications Commission has a database of unique cell phone identification numbers that allow stolen cell phones to be entirely deactivated. Thieves often tamper with those numbers to reactivate the phones. That would be a felony under Brown’s proposed law.

“Too many Mahoning Valley citizens have been targeted for crime, just because of the phone in their pocket or purse,” Brown said in a statement. “With so much of this criminal activity fueled by the black market, this legislation will crack down on cell phone theft and impose severe consequences on thieves who will think twice before trying to make a quick buck.”

Brown cited a Pew Research Center study that showed about 87 percent of Americans own cell phones, about 45 percent of which are smartphones. The FCC said between 30 and 40 percent of all robberies in major U.S. cities involve cell phone theft.

Cassie Oles, of Canfield, said her phone was stolen while she was cheerleading at Youngstown State University.

Oles said she left her gym bag in the Beeghly Center.

“I looked for it and once I knew it was stolen, it was just a horrible feeling because I do everything on my phone, like every other college student,” Oles said.

Oles said she’s in favor of the proposed legislation.

“I think it’s an awesome idea,” she said. “I’m all for it.”

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