INVESTIGATIONS by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch in connection with a ‘flasher’ racket indicated that two arrested on Thursday might have changed IMEI numbers of hundreds of stolen cellphones in the last two years.
The duo, Mohsin Sheikh (30) and Mehmood Shafi (22), were arrested from Bandra (east) on Thursday, after the Property Cell of the Crime Branch received a tip-off that they were changing IMEI numbers of stolen cellphones using flashers under the guise of running a cellphone repair service.
“The duo said they started running the racket two years back, when flashers first hit the black market in Mumbai. Sheikh runs the repair shop and Shafi is his employee. Around two years ago, a friend told Sheikh there was money in the racket, after which he bought six flashers from a dealer at Manish Market,” said a Crime Branch officer.
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Officials said the accused would take stolen cellphones from thieves in bulk and change their IMEI numbers overnight. Of the 135 cellphones recovered from them by the Crime Branch, they had changed IMEI numbers of five and were going to complete the rest of the lot the next day, said sources.
“Once you have bought a flasher and installed its software on a computer, you just have to connect a cellphone to the computer and run the software. The software changes the last four to five numbers of the phone’s IMEI number, giving it a new identity. The process takes hardly 10 minutes for one phone. In the last two years, the accused could have altered hundreds of stolen phones, rendering them untraceable,” said another officer.
The accused allegedly told police that they offered two options to the thieves who gave stolen cellphones to them. They would either change the IMEI numbers and return them to the thieves for a price, or buy stolen cellphones from the thieves, change their IMEI numbers and sell them through their own store.
“As the phone would have an IMEI number, the buyers, too, would not suspect it could be stolen. On the other hand, as the IMEI number was not original, the phone could not be traced, creating a win-win situation for the accused,” an officer said. The duo have been remanded in Crime Branch custody till Saturday, and are currently being interrogated, said officials.