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More than 150 stolen phones at New Orleans Mardi Gras parades tied to Colombian theft ring
BATON ROUGE - Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an annual tradition for many Louisianans, but some say they're reconsidering their party plans after they were among the more than 100 people whose phones were stolen over the weekend.
“I will never go to Mardi Gras again,” Lisa Dorsey, a pick-pocket victim said.
The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office says that a group of 11 people, all with Colombian heritage, were arrested in connection to the theft of 162 cell phones.
“Several of the individuals that were apprehended had Colombian identification cards. After reaching out to several federal agencies that’s providing us with information they were able to provide us with intel that these people are associated with a Colombian theft ring that's operating in the United States,” Tangipahoa Parish Chief Deputy Jimmy Travis said.
Travis said the thieves stole the phones and then placed them in faraday bags to kill signal and drain battery—making them harder to track.
Authorities were able to track one of the devices to an AirB&B in Tickfaw where the first set of arrests were made.
“There was 50 phones already wrapped up in a box that looked like it was wrapped with several layers of packing tape,” Travis said.
Linda Dorsey had her phone stolen at a Walgreens. She said the theft happened so fast that she didn’t notice.
“I really can't say I even noticed anyone close to me, how they got it out of my pocket that easily, I have no idea. It’s so bad because you’re having a good time, going into a Walgreens you would never think that someone was getting ready to steal from you,” Dorsey said.
The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office is working to process the phones. Most of them are shut down so deputies are having to hook up to extraction devices to determine the numbers.
Until then, caution and awareness are encouraged at large events.
"We're having to tell people make sure your cell phone is secure, because you're walking around with your whole life sticking out your back pocket," Travis said.
The following suspects were arrested by the sheriff's office.
- 24-year-old Geinier Acevebo-Jimenez
- 26-year-old Jean Paul Sabogal-Angortia
- 31-year-old Bridgette Solorzano-Rodriguez
- 36-year-old Yudi Tatiana Solorzano Sanchez
- 30-year-old Kely Yojana Forero-Mendoza
- 24-year-old Paula Daniela Canaria-Villamil
- 33-year-old Paola Fernanda Consuegra-Gavlis
- 30-year-old Jhon Alexander Flores-Munoz
- 26-year-old Yuli Oney Gutierrez
- 31-year-old Ronald Steven Carvajal
- 47-year-old Jorge Jimenez
If you believe your phone was stolen at a Mardi Gras parade over the weekend, you can fill out a report at the websites linked below:
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