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West Ventura County Focus

OXNARD : Couple Arrested in Telephone 'Cloning'

August 30, 1995|SCOTT HADLY

An Oxnard man was nabbed by Ventura County Sheriff's Department investigators on suspicion of "cloning" cellular phones with stolen code numbers so calls could be billed to other customers.

Michael Sawyer, 27, was arrested after a monthlong investigation by the Sheriff's Department burglary detail, a department spokesman said.

A computer technician by trade, Sawyer is accused of using sophisticated computer equipment to monitor the airwaves and pick up security code numbers from cellular phone customers.

The stolen numbers were then programmed onto microchips, which could be installed into cellular phones. Charges for calls made from the reprogrammed phones would be billed to customers whose codes were stolen, said Lt. Mike Regan, a department spokesman.

The Sheriff's Department worked with experts from the cellular phone industry during their investigation. A search of Sawyer's residence at Casitas Apartments in Oxnard uncovered lists of stolen cellular phone numbers, computer hardware and software for programming phones, seven cloned cellular phones, marijuana, a semiautomatic revolver and more than $7,500 in cash, Regan said.

Sawyer's girlfriend, 19-year-old Christina Munoz of Oxnard, also was arrested. Both were booked at the Ventura County Jail on felony charges of phone cloning and possession of marijuana for sale.

Sawyer was released Tuesday afternoon on an unspecified bail amount. Munoz was being held in lieu of $10,000 bail.

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