Covert Chicago police officers busted a phone theft ring at Lollapalooza, leading to the filing of felony charges against four people, all of whom are from out of state, according to officials.
At around 5:30 p.m. Friday, a man told officers at the festival that his phone had been stolen. Prosecutors said he took covert cops into the crowd and pointed to the three people who took it.
The cops watched as the trio stole another man’s phone right in front of their eyes.
Prosecutors said one woman began grinding on a man in his late teens or early twenties in front of the Perry Stage while a man took the victim’s phone and passed it to a second woman. She, in turn, placed it inside a fanny pack.
Cops arrested the threesome a short time later.
Prosecutors said one woman had three iPhones inside a fanny pack when they arrested her. Another bag had an ID and credit cards of a victim.
Arceli Quinones, 32, Ximena Rodriguez, 24, and Juan Ramirez, 25, all of Los Angeles, face felony theft charges. Judge Mary Marubio ordered the women to pay a $1,000 bail deposit to be released from jail and refused to let them leave the state until their next court appearance on August 8.
Ramirez appeared before Judge Barbara Dawkins, who permitted him to return to California upon posting a $200 bail deposit.
On Monday, a fourth man, 41-year-old Antony Bardales of Denver, was charged with eight counts of felony theft.
During Bardales’ bond hearing, prosecutor Steven Haamid said Chicago police arrested three people for stealing phones on Friday and learned where the group was being dropped off and picked up. It’s unclear whether Quinones, Rodriguez, and Ramirez are the three individuals.
Police set up surveillance at the rendezvous location on Saturday and saw three men and a woman get into a van that pulled up. According to Haamid, the officers stopped the vehicle and spoke with the driver, who said he was transporting Lollapalooza attendees and gave police permission to search the van.
Cops recovered a bag that they allegedly saw Bardales, who was in the back seat, kick under the driver’s seat. It was a Faraday bag, designed to block cellphone transmissions, containing ten phones, Haamid said. Investigators were able to track down six of the phones’ owners.
Police arrested Bardales, who allegedly told them he bought the phones for $50 each on the festival grounds and planned to sell them for parts in Denver.
Judge Maryam Ahmad ordered Bardales to pay a $500 bail deposit to be released.
The judges ordered the four defendants to attend every court date.
For several years, organized phone theft teams have plagued major events in Chicago. They typically target dancefloors and outdoor music performances where victims are less likely to notice touching as their phones are taken.
During last year’s Lollapalooza festival, Chicago police recovered more than 120 stolen phones, and seven people, all from out of state, were charged. Six of those cases are still pending.
Chicago police took reports for 22 stolen phones during last month’s Pride Fest in Boystown. There were more than 40 pocket-pickings and similar thefts reported in Boystown over the Pride Parade weekend, the vast majority of those took place in Halsted Street bars and clubs, according to CPD records.
The actual number of phones stolen is likely much higher than police reports suggest. Unless a person is certain that their phone was stolen and not simply misplaced, police will code the report as “lost property.”