Cell phone theft ring targets Walmart, 3 arrested

Stolen phones reportedly sold to Baton Rouge store

Three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of thousands of dollars worth of cell phones from a Baton Rouge Walmart. St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office detectives are now looking into whether the same people could be involved in a similar theft that took place at the Walmart in Boutte.

According to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, two 14-year-olds forced their way into a glass electronics case at the Baton Rouge Walmart and made off with $14,000 in smart phones on Jan. 4. Detectives believe that the juveniles then gave the stolen merchandise to a relative, 36-year-old Latarsha Dennis.

Dennis, who is sought by authorities, is accused of selling the phones to Gardere Communications in Baton Rouge.

After executing a search warrant at Gardere on Jan. 14, deputies say they found the stolen phones. The store’s owner, Safwan Abukahla, 29, was arrested and charged with the illegal possession of stolen things. The two juveniles were arrested and charged with theft.

The Baton Rouge crime mirrors a theft that took place at the Boutte Walmart at 4 a.m. on Jan. 5. In that instance, two teens broke into a glass case in the electronics department and stole 23 phones with a combined value of $13,600. St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne believed that the two thieves weren’t from St. Charles Parish because similar crimes had taken place at Walmarts in Baton Rouge and Hammond within hours of each other.

“The descriptions of the perpetrators matches in all three [thefts],” Champagne said. “The time difference in the thefts also provided just enough time for them to drive the distance between the three stores.”

Champagne said that other Walmarts between Baton Rouge and New Orleans had reported similar thefts in mid-December.When Dennis is apprehended, she will be charged with principal to theft and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.

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