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Cellphone thefts 'epidemic' in central Florida

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Updated: 8/03/2013 11:19 am
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (WFTV) -- A cellphone theft at a crowded Orange County restaurant is just a small part of what deputies call an "epidemic."

The phone theft was caught on surveillance video while a woman was waiting to place her order at a Checker's on Sand Lake Road.

Deputies said a man reached into her pocket, took the phone and ran off.

Orange County deputies need help tracking down the man who took the phone and took off.

Deputies said people hanging out downtown and in the area on vacation are most at risk.

Thieves are targeting unsuspecting victims all over because of the market's insatiable appetite for cellphones, according to deputies. 

"They take them to a retailer, where they can either clean the phone or do something else for resale," said Jeff Williamson with the Orange County Sheriff's Office. 

Sarah Dunson understands how it feels to be without a phone because someone stole it while it was sitting right in front of her while she was out at a bar.

"I grab the drinks with my hands, and I literally rotate myself… just to turn my drinks over to somebody and when I come back my phone is gone," Dunson said.

She said the thieves racked up $3,400 worth of charges making international calls.

"They took my SIM card out of my phone and put it into their phone and called Cuba and Mexico 157 times in 24 hours," Dunson said. 

Fortunately she had insurance, she got a new phone and didn't have to pay the huge bill.

Dunson said the ordeal taught her a lesson.

"I don't let go of my phone, I always take a purse and I don't put it in my back pocket anymore," Dunson said. 

Deputies are urging everyone to keep a better eye on their phones and to be aware of their surroundings.

Investigators said anyone who knows anything about the latest crime should call the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
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