Woman tracks stolen cell phone to trade-in kiosk at grocery store


INDIANAPOLIS — Stephanie Wooten was visiting friends at a Fountain Square church last weekend when she reached for her new iPhone 12.

“Saturday morning, my cell phone got tooken (taken) from me,” she said, recalling that immediately her suspicions fell on a man who was hanging around the church that day. “There wasn’t nobody else in there. Wasn’t but four of us in the building.”

Friends readily recognized the description of the suspected thief and spotted him at a Twin Aire fast food restaurant.

“We had just seen (saw) him. He was at McDonald’s getting him(self) a sandwich and a drink and stuff,” said Stephanie. “Somebody has seen (saw) him up to the Kroger.”

Inside that grocery store was a kiosk operated by ecoATM which offers cash for cell phones.

“I took my friend’s phone and started calling my phone and you could hear it ringing in the kiosk,” said Stephanie, “So we knew it was there.”

Stephanie’s cell phone was trapped inside the kiosk, and IMPD took a report.

“A person reports a cell phone stolen, identifies it….information on the cell phone, serial number…and then if the cell phone is located in one of these kiosks, one of our pawn detectives will put a hold on it,” explained IMPD Lt. Shane Foley.

“A district detective will contact the victim, verify that the victim wants to pursue charges against the person, the suspect in that case, and the pawn detective will work with the company to get the cell phone returned to the alleged victim.”

Stephanie’s cell phone ended up in the possession of ecoATM in Louisville where its on hold per company policy.

“We have worked very hard to make sure that ecoATM is one of the worst places for a thief to bring a stolen phone,” reads the company’s website.

The kiosk includes a warning that ecoATM works closely with law enforcement. There is a surveillance camera that snaps a photograph of the person trading in the phone, and the website indicates that a seller must provide an identity check and the device will be held for thirty days before it is disassembled or resold.

“There’s the potential that I could give you my cell phone, you go and turn it in and I reported it stolen when in fact it was all a scam,” said Foley. “This is why we have this process in place to protect the companies because they would also be victims because they’re out that money if they paid the alleged suspect for the cell phone.”

Once IMPD receives the phone from ecoATM, detectives will confirm the serial number and add that information to a probable cause affidavit. They will then present the case to the Marion County prosecutor for criminal charges before returning the phone to Stephanie.

“But my question is, everybody knew where the phone was, why couldn’t they just open it up and give it to me? I’m the one that’s suffering from this.”

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