Newlyweds busted stealing cellphones from students
Spokane police have caught a young married couple who allegedly tricked high school students into handing over their cellphones and then driving off with them.
Police said two weeks ago, a man and a woman in a compact car started asking students to borrow their phone and the helpful students fell for the suspects' phony story.
"(They said,)I have an emergency. My cell phone is dead. I need to make a quick emergency phone call so it comes across as a legitimate need to get a hold of someone quickly," District Resource Officer Walt Pegram said.
Unfortunately the students' kindness was repaid by watching their phones disappear as the suspects drove away.
"It's good on their part; they're wanting to help people but they're being taken advantage of," Pegram said.
In all, as many as 15 phones were stolen and as students became aware of the scam they also became better witnesses.
On Monday, when school wasn't in session, the thieves shifted their operation to a shopping center on North Division. Another phone was stolen, but by then district resource officers had developed a possible license plate for the suspects.
The resource officer radioed the plate number to the police department's Patrol Anti-Crime Team.
"The PACT team was able to put the rest of the investigation together and go take them into custody," Spokane police spokesperson Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said.
On Tuesday, the suspects, newlyweds Vladimir Stepanov and his wife Yuliya Stepanov, appeared in court. They have been charged with theft and trafficking in stolen property. Detectives think the pair were selling the cellphones online.
"There's a great market. They may advertise on Craigslist or pawn them through a pawn shop," Pegram said.
Detectives are looking for additional victims to pick this couple out of photo lineups in the hopes of charging the couple with additional crimes.
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