When two men bought 59 cellphones at one Walmart in Lebanon, Missouri, a red flag went up with the store’s employees. When another Walmart, which is located in Columbia, Missouri, had a bulk purchase of 50 of the prepaid cellphones this sent up even more red flags and the FBI was notified.
According to the Christian Science Monitor on December 13, there were several other bulk purchases of the prepaid or “burner” cellphones made in Missouri at several different stores. At least one of those stores was another Walmart. This has caused concerns among Americans worried that this is a sign of a terrorist plot of some kind, but the FBI is now playing these incidents down.
Along with the cellphones being purchased in bulk, dozens of propane tanks have been stolen in three different locations outside Kansas City, Missouri, according to Fox News. People can’t help but put the two together and wonder if they are related. Apparently the FBI sees no reason to be alarmed by any of this.
FBI spokesperson Bridget Patton said: “You have local law enforcement acting out of an abundance of caution. We have seen similar purchases of bulk cellphones in the past, and it has been concluded that these transactions were unrelated to terrorism.” Apparently people buy these cellphones in bulk purchases and sell them off. The FBI is also leaving the stolen propane tanks up to local authorities to solve.
Retired agent Michael Taubman said: “The good news is this is probably not part of terrorist planning for a number of reasons. One is they wouldn’t steal these items because they know that would attract law enforcement’s attention. Also this would not be a tool of choice.”
Macon County Sheriff Sgt. Curt Glover said about the bulk purchases of the cell phones, “I do not feel there’s an immediate threat to the community. This has been going on for the last 15 years.”
The Prepaid cell phones are often referred to as “burners” because people can use them anonymously and toss them away. “Immigrants and people without a stable income or a consistent residence often find them useful. Drug dealers are another possibility, ” reports the Christian Science Monitor.
The two men who purchased the first reported batch in Lebanon on December 5 were described as “immigrants,” as witnesses said they had foreign accents. DB Techno reports that one of the men who had made a bulk purchase of cell phones had left his cellphone in the bathroom at the Lebanon Walmart and employees called the police.
The man came back to get the cell phone and police questioned him and asked for ID, but they had no reason to hold him and they had to let him go. Similar bulk purchases of cellphones were reported in Macon, Jefferson City, Jackson and Cape Girardeau, as well as other cities, reports two local Missouri TV stations.
“If you see something, say something,” authorities have been saying in the last few weeks. While these cell phone purchases don’t raise a reg flag with the FBI and local authorities, it was still a good thing that Walmart employees reported the purchases. It sounds as if the FBI feels these terrorists are too smart to steal propane or to flag themselves with bulk cellphone purchases.