Pre-paid cell phones lead to terrosism charges

Aug 13 2006 - 04:16 PM ET | MVNO

tracfone-logo.jpgThree men who were found with 1,000 pre-paid cell phones have been arraigned on terrorism related charges. The men have Texas drivers licenses, but were found in Michigan attempting to buy 80 TracFone handsets from Wal-Mart using cash. Authorities were alerted of the suspicious behavior and checked the suspects' rental car, inside were more than 1,000 of the phones all stripped from their packaging.

Police in Caro, Michigan, said the men were arrested early Friday and were being held on charges of "providing material support for terrorism and obtaining information of a vulnerable target for the purposes of terrorism."

The wife of one suspect said her husband was going to resell the phones in Texas for approximately $5 profit per phone. The phones were about $20 each, which according to Wal-Mart's website means they were Motorola C139s (which is also carried by Cingular).

TracFone is more lenient than some other pre-paid services in that it can be completely anonymous. Major carriers now require personal information (typically verified with a credit card or driver's license) to activate handsets.