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Parolee Held in Cellular Phone 'Cloning' Fraud : Crime: The Granada Hills man altered codes to allow friends and drug dealers to place free calls, authorities say.

August 04, 1993|MICHAEL CONNELLY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Granada Hills man once associated with a notorious San Fernando Valley drug syndicate and suspected more recently of "cloning" cellular phones to provide unlimited free calling for friends and fellow drug dealers faces fraud and drug charges, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies said Tuesday.

Levie Slack III, 29, was arrested Monday at his home in the 16400 block of Donmetz Street after authorities received a tip that Slack was involved in computerized phone fraud, Deputy Gabe Ramirez said.

Seized from the home was a computer used to alter cellular phone codes and five phones that had been altered, Ramirez said. Also seized was $73,806 in cash, seven ounces of cocaine, a quarter of a pound of marijuana, two handguns--including an assault pistol with a 100-round magazine attachment--and a 1987 Corvette.

Slack was arrested on suspicion of fraud and possession of a controlled substance for sale.

Slack was previously described by police as an associate of the so-called Bryant Organization, which investigators say has brutally controlled drug sales in the northeast Valley for more than a decade.

Slack was arrested in 1987 as a suspect in the slayings of four people--two Bryant rivals and a woman and her young daughter--at a Lake View Terrace drug house. He was later released because of insufficient evidence. Several other alleged members of the group are awaiting trial in the killings.

Because Slack is now on probation for a 1988 drug-dealing conviction, law enforcement officers had the authority to search his home without a warrant at any time, Deputy Richard Garcia said.

Garcia said he conducted the search of Slack's home Monday after an informant told him that Slack was "cloning" phones. Cloning is a street term that refers to taking stolen cellular phone numbers and serial codes and re-encoding them into other phones. The phones can then be used--with the rightful owner getting billed--until the fraud is discovered.

Garcia said use of cloned phones is common among drug dealers and Slack is suspected of distributing altered phones to friends and drug associates. Typically, Garcia said, a phone is encoded with stolen information for $100 to $300 and the fraud is usually not discovered for a month or so.

"For that period of time they make free phone calls," Garcia said. "They'll run up thousands of dollars in calls."

Garcia said that when deputies confronted Slack at his home Monday, he allowed deputies to search and even pointed out the hiding spots where he kept drugs, guns and money.

"He knew we'd find it so he just pointed it all out," Garcia said.

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