by: Jeff Smith Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte police have broken up a crime ring where teens worked together to break into stores and steal iPhones.
Detectives said the group burglarized more than a dozen stores over the last few weeks, often smashing the front windows to get inside.
Burglary detectives in four different police divisions had been investigating the burglaries for weeks. But the big break came when one of the suspects gave a stolen iPhone to his sister as a present. When she went to the store to activate the phone, employees realized it was stolen and called 911.
Police said the group was led by 16-year-old Richard Klay, a teen already with a long rap sheet for burglary and breaking and entering. Klay was arrested at the end of August.
Detectives said he often threw a rock through the window of a cell phone store while wearing a Power Rangers mask.
"You think about the loss. You think about the phones and how much money you lost," said Leyser Urbina, who manages a Boost Mobile store in East Charlotte that was burglarized a few weeks ago.
"It cost us a couple thousand dollars to get the glass fixed," he added.
Police said Klay was joined by 19-year-old Q'darius Hamer and a 15-year-old boy, who they can't name because of his age.
Detectives believe other friends knew about the thefts--or were possibly involved--but the 15-year-old has refused all police interviews.
"They're out breaking into stores at three in the morning, just really because they don't have the right guidance. It is very sad that this happens," Urbina said.
He didn't know the kids who smashed his window have been linked to burglaries in 15 other locations until Eyewitness News told him.
"I know police have worked hard," Urbina said. "I'm glad they got them."
Hamer and Klay face dozens of felony charges between them for breaking and entering, larceny, and conspiracy. They're still listed in the Mecklenburg County Jail.
Eyewitness News has requested video from a burglary where Klay was hiding his identify using his Power Rangers mask. Police said the detective handling the surveillance will be back in the office Monday.