Thieves Use Big Rigs in Brazen Cell Phone Robbery

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Authorities are trying to hunt down a large batch of phones stolen from an Alltel Corp. distribution center, a theft so big that police said the culprits needed tractor-trailer rigs to get away.

The theft was over the weekend and was discovered after employees arrived Tuesday to find a hole cut in the roof and locks cut on doors at four loading docks. Three tractor-trailers were stolen from two Fort Smith companies, Fort Smith police spokesman Sgt. Jarrard Copeland said.

Copeland said the alarm at the warehouse had been disabled, which enabled the trucks to get in and out unnoticed.

Alltel would not say how many phones had been stolen. Copeland said several pallets were missing, though it probably took four trucks to remove the stolen goods.

"Our theory that four trucks were used is based on the four overhead door locks being cut," Copeland said. "It appears they backed up the trucks and moved the merchandise out that way."

The cab of one of the stolen trucks was found abandoned Tuesday near Alltel Arena in North Little Rock, Copeland said.

Fort Smith police are working with the FBI are to locate the thieves. Authorities would not place a dollar amount on how much the phones were worth.

"Obviously in a situation like this we don't want to say too much or do anything that might hinder the authorities' ability to find out who did this," Alltel spokesman Andrew Moreau said.

Little Rock-based Alltel is in the process of being bought by Verizon Wireless, in a deal worth $5.9 billion, after factoring for the debt. Alltel was purchased a year ago by GS Capital Partners and TPG Capital for $24.7 billion.

Alltel has more than 13 million customers and annual revenue of more than $7 billion.