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Police: High-tech burglar busted

SNELLVILLE - Police say they've bagged a Gwinnett thief who stole high-tech equipment from cell phone towers across metro Atlanta, causing short interruptions in service for customers.

Police caught Dwayne Horton, 43, of Dacula, on Thursday with $1.8 million in circuit boards and hard drives officials say he took from cell phone towers to later sell.

Investigators said Horton, a former Metro PCS employee, housed about 80 computer cards valued at $1.8 million in his Dacula home. He allegedly broke in to cell phone towers operated by Metro PCS and Verizon, causing failed service for customers "for a couple of hours" in each instance, said Snellville police Chief Roy Whitehead.

Horton later sold the equipment to undisclosed buyers in Boston and Chicago, reaping as much as $1 million in Boston alone, Whitehead said.

The local investigation started Aug. 24, when police found that a thief had entered a Snellville cell phone tower and swiped about $120,000 in computer cards. Police later learned the scope of the crime reached across metro Atlanta, totaling $6 million in stolen equipment.

Snellville police joined the F.B.I., Gwinnett police and security investigators from the network providers to discover the alleged thief had been out-sourcing the equipment to Boston and Chicago.

"We made contacts and identified witnesses in both cities whose information led us to (Horton), who had worked for cellular companies on their towers," Whitehead said.

Police obtained warrants to search Horton's two residences - his Dacula home and another in Decatur.

Police arrested Horton during a traffic stop this week, during which "officers observed computer cards clearly visible on the back seat (of his van)," Whitehead said.

Thus far, Horton has been charged with burglary, though more charges are likely, said Whitehead. Horton remains at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond.

Investigators believe Horton worked alone in taking the equipment, Whitehead said.