Crooks are targeting smart phone stores in South Florida, stealing tens of thousands of dollars worth of the latest high-tech gadgets.
A least four cell phone stores have been robbed since Tuesday morning, authorities said.
Wednesday afternoon in Deerfield Beach two men robbed an AT&T store, holding 12 people at gunpoint while filling a garbage bag with dozens of smart phones, authorities said.
And on Wednesday, in Miami, a Simple Mobile store was hit. One day earlier, crooks robbed a different Simple Mobile store in Miami, as well as a T-Mobile store just blocks away. Two suspects are in custody in connection to one of the recent robberies.
Smart phone expert Tim Phelps said turning iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S3 phones quickly nets a pretty good profit for thieves.
"You can make a couple of hundred bucks off the phone even though you know it's stolen, if you don't really care about getting arrested or taking the chance," said Phelps.
Some cell phone store owners said the thefts make it tough to do business.
"It makes me waste time, I have to restock up now because I'm losing money," Richard Sancruzado said. "Today is my birthday and it happened on my birthday."
Government statistics show that nationally one out of three robberies involves a cell phone. Authorities in New York report a 40 percent increase in stolen cell phones last year.
Officials from New York and San Francisco will host a "Smart Phone Summit" later this month to delve into the issue of security. Stolen smart phones are often shipped out of the country for resale at premium prices. They're also frequently resold in America.
Phelps, president of Dr. Phonefix, said pawning the devices is quick, easy cash.
Sancruzado is sending out a warning.
"To other cell phone store owners, please secure your stores, put on alarms and it won't happen to you," he said.