Police seize £20,000 in dawn raids targeting accomplices of moped phone robbers

Officers used an app to help them identify the handlers of stolen phones, thought to be taken during

Officers used an app to help them identify the handlers of stolen phones, thought to be taken during moped robberies. Picture: Rhiannon Long - Credit: Archant

Two key handlers in a phone theft operation were arrested in a dawn raid this morning.

Officers stormed two flats in Kinsham House in Bethnal Green, finding more than £20,000 in cash and a number of mobile phones.

The two men arrested are thought to be handlers of stolen phones taken during moped robberies.

DI Steve Brownlee said: “Two males of Bangladeshi origin were arrested who we think are connected to a long-term wider investigation into the people we believe are handling stolen phones.

“It’s hard to say how much this operation was worth to them, but phones can go from £20 for older models to £300 for the later models.”

Handlers of stolen phones, known as ‘plugs’, hand out price lists for how much they’re prepared to pay. People commit the thefts on mopeds and hand over bags of phones over to the plugs.

Using an app, officers were able to track a phone which was stolen from north London, taken to south London and put with 15 others, and transported to people at the raided property.

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The app, Cerburus, which takes pictures as a sim card is being removed from the phone, allowed officers to identify the men at the property. It has a GPS tracker and can also record audio and video.

“In this instance, this app has been extremely helpful,” DI Brownlee said.

“It’s been able to show us the story of a stolen phone from the moment it gets taken. We’ve been able to track its’ activity and get a real insight into what happens to that phone.

“We believe these phones were being transported to Bangladesh, where potentially they’re being sold on, reactivated on the networks or broken down into parts.”

The app, which is widely used in south America, is only available on Android. DI Brownlee said it’s not used as frequently in the UK, but can be helpful to track phones taken during moped robberies.

He said: “It’s unfortunate that we’re in this situation with moped crime, becuase it is such valuable equipment which is targeted.

“We say to people, be careful when you’re coming out of transport hubs or getting off buses. People need to be aware of what’s going on around them. Criminals focus on transport hubs, colleges and bars, so it’s about being more alert.”