The sheriff’s office questioned two Russian men Sunday who told a deputy they bought more than 200 prepaid cell phones over the weekend from area stores.
Neither was charged with a crime, but the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office notified Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Cleveland of the incident, according to a sheriff’s office report.
The men, who have lived in the United States for at least five years, told the deputy they bought the Tracfones from stores in the Port Clinton and Sandusky areas to resell to a businessman, according to the report. The businessman, whose name or location they did not provide, then would sell the phones on eBay, they told Deputy George Byington.
Prepaid cell phones have been linked to terrorist activity in the past, causing store officials to consider the men’s behavior suspicious. Some stores have limits on the number of prepaid cell phones customers can buy at one time.
ICE spokesman Greg Palmore of the agency’s Detroit office said he had no information regarding the incident.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Palmore said. “If it was something we had a major interest in, I would have heard about it.”
Byington was not available for comment.
Managers at Wal-Mart on East Harbor Road called the sheriff’s office Saturday after seeing the men enter the store repeatedly to buy the phones, according to the report. Security video shows they slightly modified their appearance each time, sometimes putting on a hat or glasses or removing their jackets, the deputy reported.
An employee at Dollar General, located at the front of the Wal-Mart driveway, told deputies the men had looked at Tracfones in the store but left, the report shows.
When the men returned to the store Sunday, managers again called authorities. A sheriff’s deputy confronted them while one of the men was at the checkout with two Tracfones, the report shows.
The men produced Michigan driver’s licenses, both of which listed residents in the Detroit area — Troy and West Bloomfield, according to the report. They said they visited Ohio to buy the phones and stayed at a Sandusky hotel, the deputy reported.
They work construction, and selling Tracfones is a legitimate business that supplements their income, they told the deputy.
A Wal-Mart manager told the men not to return to the Portage Township store, according to the report.