Police have stepped up the fight against mobile phone crime with what are believed to be the first charges against reprogrammers in the UK.
Avon and Somerset Police officers raided a shop on Cheltenham Road in Bristol and recovered around 40 stolen mobile phones and 70 laptops.
The recovered items are thought to have come from street robberies, burglaries and car thefts across Bristol.
Rino Ferrigno, 44, from Totterdown, Raimondo Sotgia, 30, from Southville and Thomas Savickas, 24, from Fishponds were all charged with offering to reprogram a mobile phone and conspiracy to handle stolen goods.
A number of reprogrammed mobile phones and sophisticated mobile phone reprogramming equipment used to unblock phones that have been reported lost or stolen were also seized.
Three men have been charged in what are believed to be the first charges in the country under the Reprogramming Act 2002, which makes an offence of offering or agreeing to change or interfere with the unique device identifier (IMEI number) of a mobile.
Detective Inspector Gareth Bevan said: ‘As far as we are aware the charges that have been brought in this case are the first time anyone in the UK has been charged for unblocking a mobile phone.’
He added: ‘This covert operation would not have taken place had it not been for the members of the public who gave us information about these premises.
‘Not only are we hunting down criminals who commit these crimes but we tackle the stolen goods market too.’
Separately, three other men from Bristol, aged 19, 29 and 48, were arrested for conspiracy to handle stolen goods and have been released on police bail pending further enquiries.