GARDEN GROVE : 4 Arrested in Alleged Cellular Phone Scam


Police and private investigators arrested four men this week on suspicion of operating a sophisticated scheme to steal cellular telephone air time.

Acting on a tip from Robert Ghan Investigations, a private firm employed by L.A. Cellular, Garden Grove police set up a sting operation, according to Detective Elaine Barr. Officers brought 30 cellular phones to the men at several Santa Ana addresses, and asked to have them “cloned.”

Using a device called an “electronic serial number reader,” Barr said, the men were able to pull the telephone numbers of legitimate cell phone users “out of the air” and program them into different phones.


These so-called “cloned” phones were then good for unlimited use for about a month, until subscribers received their bills, investigators said. Customers for the cloned phones paid about $80 for the clones, and then resold long-distance calls on the phones for cut rates.

The men were arrested Tuesday at homes in the 1100 block of Bristol Street and the 900 block of Sullivan Street, both in Santa Ana, police said.

They were identified as Carlos Venegas Ochoa, 25, of Santa Ana; Mario Martinez Perez, 30, of Garden Grove; Richard Vargas, 35, of Garden Grove; and Martin Maldonado Ochoa, 25, of Santa Ana. All were booked into Orange County Jail. Perez, Vargas and Martin Ochoa, no relation to Carlos Ochoa, also face drug charges, police said.