A 39-year-old Stockport man, a 34-year-old Burnage man, a 29-year-old Longsight man and a 19-year-old Moss Side man were arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods.
Charges have yet to be laid. The men were released on bail pending further enquiries until April 17. So far, 12 of the handsets seized have been confirmed as stolen. Officers are still examining the remainder.
Operation Tomahawk involved 300 officers from various crime units. It also saw 132 people arrested as a result of checks made on Manchester’s public transport system and of vehicle number plates in targeted areas of the city.
Police said, on average, thieves travel around six kilometres to commit a robbery, and are likely to use an uninsured vehicle or public transport.
Police raided mobile phone retailers EPhones and Quicklinks in Longsight on the morning of January 17. In Quicklinks, officers asked customers to leave and searched both the store and a downstairs workshop filled with boxed handsets and component parts.
The Quicklinks owner claimed he did not buy or sell stolen phones and always took photo ID or a utility bill from sellers, as well as cross-checking the IMEI number on the battery with the IMEI on the phone memory.
He said he refused to buy from anyone he suspected of being “dodgy”.
Police patrols are to be stepped up in the Wilmslow Road area of the city, where 60 per cent of street robbery victims are students and children.
Greater Manchester Police assistant chief constable Dave Thompson said: “We usually see a rise in street robberies when students return from holidays, which is why we put this operation in place.”