AUSTIN (KXAN) — Did you lose a cell phone at the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival? Austin Police have recovered more than 100 phones thanks to a sting operation that multiple departments contributed to across state lines.
In the past few days, APD uploaded photos of the phones to Crowdfind, the website ACL used to coordinate lost-and-found. Since then, APD said they have around 90 phones left to be picked up. If you or someone you know is missing a phone, you can go to this link or you pick them up in-person at the APD South Substation at 404 Ralph Ablanedo Drive.
“Somebody went here (to Austin) took the phones, went to the UPS store here in Austin and shipped them to Kissimmee, Florida, and the package was intercepted,” explained Sergeant Noel Guerin with APD.
Guerin got a call from Florida law enforcement at that point and they squared away the details to create a sting operation.
“I was floored. I mean, I would expect maybe a local criminal or something like that, but these guys came from another country probably for the specific reason of coming to ACL fest to steal from people,” Guerin said.
Law enforcement in Florida sent a message to the suspects saying the package had arrived in Florida when the three suspects showed up to the store to pick up the package they were arrested.
Guerin explained that the FBI has now filed federal charges against these suspects who have been deported back to Columbia.
The box of phones was shipped back to Austin where Guerin picked them up and wondered what to do with them. He said he immediately contacted ACL, who offered to put APD in touch with Crowdfind.
Together, they worked out a system where photos of the phones and the images on their lock screens could be uploaded and people could write in on the website to claim them. APD has been verifying the owners of these phones using passcodes. The people missing their phones can pay for shipping through the Crowdfind website, then APD mails the phones back to their rightful owners.
“This is first time I think something like that has happened here at APD,” Guerin explained.
He added that items like these would typically be stored as evidence and people would have to go in person to retrieve them. But as APD is not the agency filing charges in this case, these phones don’t need to be stored as evidence and can thus be posted on the website for retrieval.
“It serves to remind everybody, Austin is a cool place to be, but it is not a small town anymore.”