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Bandits Sold Sophisticated Cell Phones

Last week, federal authorities arrested crooks selling cellular phone equipment designed to make it easy to listen in and steal wireless data. The bad news: the phone equipment the crooks were selling included some impressive high-tech advances.

By now just about everyone has heard about the German man who initially used CompuServe's online service to advertise illegal cellular phone devices. Just last week federal authorities busted Bernard Bowitz, his wife Rachel, and an alleged accomplice named Gregory Brooks on fraud charges. The good news is that these alleged bandits have been apprehended.

The bad news is that authorities seized from the ring a variety of sophisticated devices, some of which are already in circulation. The feds found scanners that can steal cellular phone numbers from users, lifetime phone devices that allow users to make untraceable calls, and a cell-tracker device that lets crooks listen in on private calls made by cellular phone users.

According to law enforcement officials, the Bowitz case is significant because of the advanced nature of the devices the engineer was selling. For instance, Bowitz was allegedly selling a highly compact cellular-phone scanning device small enough to be concealed in a jacket pocket. Previous versions were bulky and cumbersome. In addition, phones seized in the bust were advanced enough to allow instant keypad programming. Earlier devices had to be hooked up to a PC to be programmed.