A family of self-proclaimed gypsies were arrested Tuesday after allegedly stealing dozens of iPhones from a Ballwin cell phone dealer.
Police said the theft occurred around 10:15 a.m. at the AT&T phone dealership at 15575 Manchester Road, where a total of 30 iPhones were stolen, a store representative reported.
The theft occurred when three people entered the store posing as customers, police said, with two of the customers distracting store employees while the third entered the business's back area, filled a garbage bag with the iPhones then ran out of the store.
"It was basically glorified shoplifting," Ballwin Police Sgt. Jim Heldmann said.
Employees told police that the subjects then fled in a silver minivan containing five people. A call was broadcast to local law enforcement shortly after the incident, and the subjects were apprehended by Town & Country Police roughly 20 minutes later.
"They were stopped in some traffic on (Interstate) 40 because of an accident," Heldmann said. "An officer came up on the vehicle and saw several occupants ducked down … so that kind of gave them away."
Police said the five suspects included a 19-year-old, an adult male in his 50s, an adult woman and two younger "sons," but police could not verify all five parties were related.
"That's what they claimed, but they were claiming a lot of things," Heldmann said.
Heldmann said the group described themselves as "gypsies," at least one of whom had a residence on file in the Chicago area.
Police recovered a total of 40 iPhones, some of which may have been stolen during a separate incident that occurred Monday night, Heldmann said. The subjects were arrested but not charged pending further investigation.
"We're going to see if we can get it all packaged together before we take it to Clayton," Heldmann said of the felony charges, which likely will include stealing and first-degree burglary.
Heldmann said the latter charge results from the allegation that a suspect entered an area off-limits to customers in order to steal the phones.
"... Which would make it what we consider burglary," Heldmann said. "Now whether a prosecutor will consider it burglary is up for consideration."