North Laurel man held on phone-cloning charges


A North Laurel man wanted in New York state on felony theft charges was arrested last week and charged with running a cellular phone-cloning operation out of his home, Howard County police said.

On Friday, police charged Gregory Brian Jenkins, 36, of the 9200 block of Bridle Path Lane, with five counts each of possessing a cloned telephone and removing the serial number from a telephone. He is being held in the Howard County Detention Center pending an extradition hearing this week.

Cellular-phone cloning uses radio-signal scanners to steal phone numbers and electronic serial numbers broadcast by cellular phones. Criminals bootleg the cell phones and the "stolen" numbers so that the bills for their calls go to legitimate customers.

Such high-tech crimes have been on the rise for the last two years, according to Dick Johnston, director of the National White Collar Crime Center.

"These type of crimes like phone cloning and computer theft are no different than stealing a car once they learn the technology," Johnston said. "It's very easy for anyone who has a criminal mind and who applies themselves to steal the phone codes."

Laptop computer theft, Johnston said, is becoming a "scratch and grab opportunity" for thieves who are eager to cash in on the burgeoning high-tech market.

Police said 30 cellular telephones and two laptop computers were seized from Jenkins' home at the time of the arrest.

Several of the cellular phones had no batteries attached and serial numbers were found to have been altered or removed from five of the phones, a police report said.

A U.S. Secret Service agent confirmed that at least five of the cellular phones were cloned, according to police. The agency is typically called in to assist in phone-cloning cases.

According to charging documents in the case, Howard County police received an anonymous phone call stating that Jenkins was cloning and selling cellular phones from his North Laurel home.

According to charging documents, police also were informed that Jenkins was wanted by Nassau County police on Long Island, N.Y., for failing to appear in court for theft charges. Nassau County prosecutors would not comment on the nature of the theft charges.

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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