First raid on IMEI reprogrammers under new UK laws

Feb 5 2003

The UK's Midlands Police today took part in what is believed to be the country's first raid on a shop believed to be responsible for reprogramming - or 'cloning' - of stolen mobile phones.

A computer, software and other equipment were seized during the raid, which took place at a mobile phone shop in Alum Rock, Birmingham. Two men are currently helping the police with their enquiries.

The new Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Act 2002 makes it a criminal offence to change a phone's IMEI number without the manufacturer's authorisation, or to supply or offer to supply equipment for that purpose. The new offences carry a maximum penalty of 5 years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Inspector Dave Walker, from the force's Community Safety Bureau, said the aim of the new legislation was to try to prevent mobile phones from being stolen in the first place.

 "Over the last few months we have worked closely with all the mobile phone network providers, in particular have had substantial help with the investigation from Orange and T-Mobile. This type of partnership working will be key to our success in reducing mobile phone theft.

"The new law is an important piece of legislation which we believe will lead to a fall in the number of robberies involving mobiles because anyone who reprogrammes a phone's identity without the manufacturer's authority is risking prison or a hefty fine.

"If a phone is stolen and barred by the network provider it becomes worthless, making the handset unusable, so there is no longer an incentive to steal mobiles," he said.

Over the past few weeks, officers from Operation Safer Streets II have been visiting mobile phone outlets across the West Midlands advising them of the new legislation and warning them that undercover operations would be taking place to target anyone suspected of reprogramming IMEI numbers.

Inspector Steve Rees, from Queens Road operational command unit, which carried out today's raid, said: "A recent survey carried out by the force showed that as much as 28 per cent of all robbery offences involve the theft of mobile phones."

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