MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A cellphone store owner says he has learned that 32 MetroPCS stores in South Florida were victimized by looters as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the area.
Sam Brejt tells CBS4’s Peter D’Oench in an exclusive interview that looters struck his store at 254 N.W. 36th St. sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 10th. Brejt says the criminals drove their truck through the front glass door, causing $10,000 worth of damage just to the door itself.
They even left behind some evidence, which included a piece of the truck’s front bumper and a receipt from another store.
“This front door was totally mangled when they drove a truck through the front door,” said Brejt. “It was clearly announced that government agencies wouldn’t be on the streets so I’m pretty sure that they were keying on central locations to hit. They could have been here for 24 hours because there was no one to stop them during the storm. No police, nothing.”
Brejt’s business is just two and a half blocks west of where looters were captured on camera at Midtown that same Sunday. Police said six people were caught in three incidents at Midtown. A total of 19 people were arrested in burglaries around the city. Police at the time said looting and attempted looting was reported in 26 incidents.
It is not known if the Midtown looters targeted Brejt, as well.
CBS4 has learned the criminals also stole more than $19,000 worth of items from another MetroPCS store at 3020 N.W. 7th Ave. A manager said these thieves also drove their truck through the front door.
Brejt said he lost more than a hundred cell phones and iPhones, as the store was ransacked.
“We had a safe and in that safe was a myriad of items from Apple, Samsung, and LG, from high tier to low tier,” said Brejt.”
Most items were not insured.
“It is extremely costly to insure electronic items,” he said. “It is a very risky business and not feasible to insure.”
Brejt is discouraged because some items were stolen by people after the looters left.
“MetroPCS tries to serve underserved neighborhoods because we try to work within the community,” said Brejt. “It hurts when a few people in the community are trying to take advantage in this fashion.”
He made an appeal to the thieves.
“Please just bring back the equipment if you know who did it,” he said. “Just tell them to bring back the equipment. It is of zero use. All equipment is blacklisted. There is nothing they can do to connect it to any wireless carrier.”
Brejt said stolen phones are “blacklisted.” That means the serial numbers of those phones are reported to a database that is shared by wireless carriers denying activation.
He said based on his conversations with witnesses, he believes that between 7 and 10 people victimized his business and that they are part of an organized ring of thieves.
Anyone with information that can help police should call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).