Roanoke County Police investigating organized cell phone theft ring

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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Masked burglars are stealing electronics from stores up and down the Interstate 81 corridor and the Roanoke County Police Department is asking for your help to put it to an end.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of phones and tablets have gone missing and there are few leads because there's so little evidence left behind. Store owners are fed up and want it to end.

It's a rock through the front door that got four burglars into a Roanoke County cellphone store in June. Smash and grab is the tactic and they appear to know what they're doing.

"They're all dressed head to toe in black and they're wearing masks, and it's obvious that they're wearing gloves so we don't have any leads at all," Roanoke County Police Commander David McMillan said.

Straight into the backroom with trash bags in tow. In the last three years, there's been six break-ins at cell phone stores in Roanoke County.

In October 2013 thieves got into Verizon on Electric Road but left empty handed because it was all locked up. February 2014: US Cellular on Electric Road is hit for cell phones and tablets valuing $45,000. Thieves hit it again in May 2015 but didn't get anything else.

In June 2015, $1,000 of electronics was taken from ATT on Electric Road.

And that brings us back to the main footage police have shared. The NTelos/Sprint store where these thieves made off with $92,000 of phones and tablets in trash bags over their shoulders. That's on top of the $42,000 worth of stuff thieves got from this same store in January.

They're stealing mostly Apple products for a total of nearly $200,000.

"I think it's the same group and I think they plan and target the stores," McMillan said. "Everybody knows that it's simple to re-configure the Apple phone to another carrier and it's just you steal a $700 phone and you sell it for $200 that's just easy money."

It's not just a Roanoke County issue. The Sprint NTelos on West Main in Salem was hit in the same fashion last month for an undisclosed amount. And it was the same M.O. at NTelos on Peters Creek Road in Roanoke earlier this year, one of a number in the city.

County investigators have been led to other similar cases up and down the I-81 corridor, but their investigations have stalled.

"We've recovered three of the phones over the years and all three of them were recovered at different places in Greensboro North Carolina," McMillan said. "That's the only connection we have."

Police say all cell phone users should be concerned about this because these thefts add into the overall costs for everyone's bills.

If you bought a phone or traded for one and things seemed a little off, police say they're not going to take your phone, they just want to hear from you.