Stolen iPhone Surfaces at Store

September 19, 2007

Big opportunities were created when Apple dropped the 4 Gb iPhone and reduced the price of the 8 Gb model, both for Apple and for criminals waiting to sell their stolen loot. For one unlucky Apple enthusiast, the lure of an inexpensive iPhone led him to the Country Club Plaza (Mo.) store, where he was questioned by police, had his iPhone confiscated as evidence and lost the $250 he paid to the criminal who sold it to him. In fact, the iPhone had been stolen during a burglary of that same Apple store in late August.

Kelly hopes his story will prevent someone else from suffering the same fate. In an e-mail interview with IFO he said when Apple reduced the price of the iPhone, he was hooked. When the $100 credit was then announced, he realized that 4 Gb might want to sell their models to upgrade to the 8 Gb version. “The plan was simple,” Kelly said. “I buy the used 4 Gb iPhone for $250 (saving about $75 from buying new, with tax), then the seller adds that to their in-store credit to purchase a refurbished 8 gig iphone for $350. Win-win situation.”

He posted him offer to buy an iPhone on Craigslist in Kansas City, and within a week he received an e-mail from someone who said a friend had an iPhone and might sell it for $250. He took the friend’s telephone number, called him and then met him at his workplace.

He paid the person $250 in cash for the iPhone, which came without the box, but otherwise looked in perfect condition, Kelly says. “The phone synched well, and it was not until later that night that I found that the SIM card seemed to be jammed–none of the paperclip or pin-in-the-hole methods worked for popping out the SIM, he says.

Hoping to avoid taking the iPhone apart, he stopped by the nearest Apple store last week to see if they had any ideas on extracting the SIM card.

He explained to an employee at the Country Club Plaza store that he had purchased the phone used a few days earlier and that the SIM card was jammed inside. He also mentioned that it had not been activated with AT&T, “but was activated for non-phone feature use and that it just had the stock info/music/video on it.”

Kelly says, “What i did not realize–and what would have saved me a lot of trouble and money–is that new iPhones come empty, free of all the stuff that is on a model phone in the store. This apparently was a clear give-away that the phone had at one time been a demonstration phone in the store.”

In fact, the phone had been taken during a window smash burglary at 4:22 a.m. on August 28th. It was one of 10 iPhones, an iMac and six MacBook laptops taken within 60 seconds by an unknown number of suspects.

The store employee matched the phone’s internal serial number with the packaging they still had in the back of the store. On the pretense of going to retrieve a screwdriver to pop out the SIM card, the employee then called the police, who arrived short after.

The police took Kelly to a back room of the Apple store, where they questioned him about the iPhone and where he obtained it. “I told them the whole story, and was able to provide the e-mail evidence and the contact info of the seller that had previously been synched to the iPhone,” he says.

He described the police questioning as “firm but not necessarily accusatory,” and added that the Apple employee backed him up. “After the questioning they told me i was free to go, but that I would be contacted later.”

When he asked the officer asked about the money he had spent, one of them told him, “Now you know not to buy stuff off the streets, but you probably already knew that.” Kelly explains, “As if i had bought it off some crack-head in a dark alley.”

He waited outside the store until the police left and the Apple employee came out and talked with him. “He apologized again, but said that when other stolen items had returned to the store the owners had been arrested on the spot.” Kelly said he was very nice throughout the entire ordeal.

After all that, Kelly said he’s not too worried about his legal jeopardy since, “I provided all the info pertaining to the purchase–including my original Craigslist post–proving that i did not know and had no intention of buying a stolen product.”

In the end, “It just really sucks to be without the phone, and the money. It’s hard to justify buying a new one when my net cost would be $550, not including the tax,” he says.

So far, he hasn’t been contacted by the police again.

“Maybe i should have seen the signs from the beginning,” says Kelly, “but i didn’t. hopefully others won’t make the same mistakes.”

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