Covert cops arrest 10, recover ‘dozens’ of stolen phones at Lollapalooza: reports

A covert Chicago police task force arrested ten adults and seized dozens of stolen phones during this year’s Lollapalooza festival, according to CPD records reviewed by CWBChicago. And, consistent with other years, most of the alleged phone thieves live in other states.

Phone thefts have been a huge problem at Lollapalooza and other large events where people crowd closely together, especially on dance floors. In Boystown, Pride Fest has been targeted by phone theft crews for years. So has the area’s Market Days festival, which was held over the weekend—with large signs posted to warn partygoers about pickpockets.

CPD deployed undercover cops and surveillance cameras to fight theft crews this year, according to a stack of arrest reports we reviewed.

The operation scored its first three arrests just a few hours after the act hit the stage on Thursday afternoon, August 3. Covert cops saw four people walk up behind concertgoers as ACRAZE performed on Perry’s stage and then “quickly walk away” from the area, a report said.

Officers tracked the group to the 800 block of South Columbus, where they placed “several” phones into a black shoulder bag held by Kevin Zamudio-Branagan, 24, of Queens, NY, according to an arrest report. Also arrested at the scene were David Cuervo, 19, of Long Island, NY, and Johan Lopez, 27, of Chicago.

All three were charged with misdemeanor theft and released on their own recognizance.

There was a repeat performance of sorts at Perry’s stage 24 hours later.

As ARMNHMR performed, undercover cops saw Maicol Munoz, 25, of College Point, NY, approach concertgoers from behind and “walk quickly away,” an arrest report said. Once again, the cops followed her to the 800 block of South Columbus and watched as she placed “several” phones into a bag held by Karen Lozano, 32, of Orlando, according to the report.

Neither Lozano nor Munoz had Lollapalooza wristbands, so they were charged with trespassing in addition to misdemeanor theft, the report said. They were also released on their own recognizance.

That night, Chicago police arrested Christian Cespes, 43, of College Point, NY, in the 300 block of South Columbus. According to his arrest report, a security guard flagged cops down to help a woman whose phone had been stolen.

Officers found the phone in Cespes’ possession, along with six more phones, the arrest report said. Cespes “did not have an explanation as to why he has the phones that did not belong to him,” an officer wrote.

William F Agudelo, Christian C Cespes, David S Cuervo, Diana Jaqueline Garcia Diaz, Moreno A Jefferson, Johan S Lopez, Karen Lozano, Maicol D Munoz, Duvan C Ortiz, and Kevin A Zamudio-Barnagan | Chicago Police Department

He was charged with three counts of theft of lost or mislaid property and released on his own recognizance.

The task force arrested four more people on Saturday night. Apparently acting on a tip, police set up surveillance near Harrison and State and watched as the group walked up, pulled “several” phones from their pockets, and placed them into a black bag before crawling into a Chevy Malibu with California plates, a CPD arrest report said.

Police stopped the Malibu immediately and recovered a black bag containing “dozens of cellular phones,” according to the report.

William Agudelo, 31, and Moreno Jefferson, 32, both of Los Angeles and Duvan Ortiz, 27, and Diana Jaqueline Garcia Diaz, 41, both of Bristol, NJ, were each charged with misdemeanor theft of lost or mislaid property. They were released on their own recognizance.

The accused probably don’t have much to worry about. Prosecutors dropped charges against most people who faced similar allegations in 2021.

Last week, the city announced that 14 people were arrested during this year’s Lollapalooza. But a closer review of records shows Chicago police arrested 20 adults.

In addition to people accused of phone theft, two men and a woman were arrested for separate battery incidents; three men and a woman were charged with trespassing for charging an admission gate; and two men were charged with theft when they tried to enter the grounds using four-day artist passes that didn’t scan properly at the entrance, according to police reports. And one man was charged with manufacture-delivery of cannabis for allegedly soliciting his wares as the Lolla crowd made its way to the CTA one night.

Police arrested 19 people at last year’s event and 20 during the 2021 festival. The most arrests made at any Lollapalooza since we started tracking the data in 2014 was 40 in 2019.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com