Police: FBI investigating suspicious cell phone purchases in Jackson, Cape Girardeau

FBI investigating suspicious cell phone purchases in Jackson, Cape Girardeau

(KFVS) - Large quantities of cell phones recently sold at Walmart stores at Jackson, Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Macon, and Lebanon, Mo. have set off some alarms.

Jackson Police Captain Rodney Barnes confirms 48 pre-paid cell phones were purchased at the Walmart in Jackson on Friday, Dec. 4.

Cape Girardeau Police Chief Wes Blair says up to 10 pre-paid cell phones were purchased the same day at the Cape Girardeau Walmart.

Both the Jackson and Cape Girardeau police departments turned over their investigations to the FBI.

A witness who does not want to be identified says that she and a family member saw a man with several pre-paid cell phones in his shopping cart Friday at the Cape Girardeau Walmart on William Street. She thought it was suspicious and wondered if maybe he was going to re-sell them.

Another witness says she saw the victim at the cash register purchasing the phones in pairs. She says she thought it was suspicious, but was told by the cashier that the person was price-matching and getting a deal.

"Historically there have been large purchases of pre-paid cell phones throughout the United States that are shipped overseas just because there is a market for that," Cape Girardeau Police Chief Wes Blair said. "So that's what the FBI is for to vet all of that out and determine it, which is why we've taken everything we learned so far and forwarded it to them."

Later that night, the woman said that same family member went to the Jackson Walmart and saw the same man with another individual buying several pre-paid phones.

"They do a lot for resale on those phone too, but we don't want to take any chances," Jackson Police Chief James Humphreys said.

The witnesses thought it was suspicious, but didn't think any more about it until they saw the news headlines about the suspicious phone purchases at other Missouri Walmart locations.

"I don't think there's no reason for the public to be alarmed by this at all," Cape Girardeau Police Chief Wes Blair said. "I can assure you if we would've got information that was alarming to our communities that we felt like our communities may be in jeopardy or in danger, we're going to let the people know that."

Police never made contact with the men who purchased the phones.

"It wasn't a crime and it apparently wasn't against store policy," Jackson Police Chief James Humphreys said. "Walmart, just as we would, thought it seemed suspicious and it wasn't an everyday purchase."

Police urge people to call local law enforcement if they see something suspicious.

"There isn't one thing definitive thing that you can pin down and say this is what people should be looking for," Chief Blair said.

Other locations across Missouri

Five or more males purchased multiple pre-paid cell phones at a Walmart in Columbia on Dec. 4.

It happened at the Walmart on Conley Road around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, according to the Columbia Police Department. They reported it to the FBI. Police are investigating if the phones were fraudulently purchased.

The Macon County Sheriff's Office and Macon Police Department are investigating the recent suspicious purchase of multiple cell phones made at the Macon Walmart.

Information has been submitted to the FBI Saint Louis Office and Springfield Office. The information will be analyzed and compared to other occurrences throughout the United States.

Two men bought 60 cell phones at the Walmart in Lebanon, Mo. shortly before 4 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5.

Authorities talked to the men, but since they didn't have a legal reason to detain them, officers allowed them to leave.

The Laclede County sheriff notified the FBI.

As for cell phones, investigators say they are potential tools in the hands of terrorists.

The devices can be used to communicate and they are difficult to trace if they are prepaid phones.

They can also be used as detonators for bombs.

The FBI encourages anyone who see anything suspicious to contact local police.

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