Four software engineers, arrested by the Inspector-General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team [IRT] in Benin, Edo State, have confessed to helping kidnappers and armed robbers change the International Mobile Equipment Identity [IMEI] numbers of stolen phones to help them evade arrest.
The phones also include those used by kidnappers for ransom negotiations.
The suspects – Bright Irabo, Benedict Edo, Ernest Ubong and, Christian Egbheri – were arrested at the Oba Market in Benin after a tip-off.
The IRT operatives, led by a Deputy Superintendent of Police, who were deployed to the state, to combat the high rate of kidnapping and armed robbery, have been experiencing difficulty solving most armed robbery and kidnapping cases within the state as robbed mobile phones are usually untraceable as a result of the changed IMEI numbers, The Vanguard reported quoting an unnamed source.
The operatives, however, made a breakthrough in tracking members of the syndicate assisting these bandits, when a 24-year-old trader, Othuke Samuel, had his mobile phone snatched from him on his away home after the close of business.
Samuel was said to have reported the theft of his phone to the police and a manhunt was launched for the thief, Bulama Sani, a native of Jigawa State, who later got unlucky, not recognizing, who Samuel was and went to his shop asking to buy from the phone.
“When he brought the phone to me to buy in my shop, I recognized that the phone was mine and when I looked at the boy properly. I recognized him and I stayed calm and I asked him how much he wanted to sell the phone and he asked me to pay him N150,000. I then asked him to wait in my shop that I wanted to get some money from the bank and I left him at the shop and went straight to the IRT operatives and came to my shop and apprehended him,” The Vanguard reports.
Upon arrest, Sani confessed that he changed the IMEI of the stolen at the Oba Market, Benin to make the phone untraceable. He later led the operatives in arresting the software engineer who helped him change the stolen phone’s IMEI numbers.
It was gathered that the four software engineers arrested during the raid at the Oba market, confessed to having been changing IMEI numbers for criminals for a fee of N1000 per phone and one of the suspects Benedict Edo, who is a native of Upoji in Esan area of Edo State and a student of University of Benin, said;
“I am working at Abuma Shopping complex in Benin City and I repair and flash phones of all kinds and I do change of phone’s IMEI”.
“ I learned the process of changing phones IMEI from the internet and I am also aware that it was criminals that were always coming to change phone IMEI. I have stopped accepting the job from customers before the police came to arrest me.”
While Christian Egbheria, a native of Osun in Imo State, said he was aware that changing of IMEI of phones was criminal, he said he engaged in the business because the money in it is attractive.
He explained that the process of changing a phone IMEI was easy and all he needed was to access the phone’s software, wipe off the old code and replace it with a new one.
He added that people come for the job normally bring more than one phone for him to change the IMEI for them.