SAO PAULO — A plot to smuggle cellular phones into a prison yard using a remote-control model helicopter has been foiled after Brazilian police discovered the high-tech toy in the trunk of a car outside a maximum-security lockup.
Police announced Monday they had confiscated the 1 yard-long (1-meter-long) chopper near the Presidente Venceslau penitentiary in Sao Paulo state and arrested four people riding in the car.
Attached to the helicopter's base was a basket-like container with nine cell phones wrapped in a disposable diaper, a police statement said. Another five cell phones were found inside the car trunk.
"The cell phones were obviously for jailed gang leaders who would use them to coordinate bank robberies and kidnappings and set up drug deals," police Sgt. Ricardo Jock told the Globo TV network.
In March, police thwarted an attempt at using carrier pigeons to fly cell phones into a prison near the southeastern city of Sorocaba.
In that case, guards spotted a pigeon resting on an electric wire with a small cloth bag tied to one of its legs. Luring the bird down with food, they discovered components of a small cell phone inside the bag.
Police said one of the suspects arrested on Sunday acknowledged receiving 10,000 reals ($5,000) to buy and prepare the helicopter, and that he would have received the same amount again for successfully landing it inside the prison.
Imprisoned Brazilian gangsters use cell phones to coordinate criminal activity outside and inside an overcrowded prison system where torture, killings and gang violence are routine.
In 2006, Sao Paulo's notorious First Capital Command gang — whose leaders are based in prison — used cell phones to launch a wave of assaults on police, banks and buses that left more than 200 people dead in South America's largest city.
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