They told PC Magazine that internal inquiries had found no record of the loss, which was said to have
occurred at Cava22, a Mexican-themed bar in San Francisco’s Mission district.
It sparked speculation that the device may have been a new iPhone 5, rumoured to be due for launch in early October.
Apple reportedly traced it to an address in the Bernal Heights district, which its security staff visited with police, but a search found nothing. CNet said the prototype may have been sold on Craigslist for around $200.
A subsequent report by the San Francisco Weekly named Sergio Calderon as the man whose apartment was searched. SF Weekly said that the officials claimed to be from the police.
However, the police have no record of the search and the police spokesmen said their attempts to liaise with Apple over the claims had been rebuffed. Internal inquiries also drew a blank. A proper records search would require the victim's name, they said.
Troy Dangerfield of the San Francisco Police Department also reportedly told PC Magazine that despite calls to its security department the firm was “not giving us anything” and that they were “getting the run around”.
Apple, which has a notoriously secretive corporate culture, has made no public comment on the claims. Observers have speculated that they may be an elaborate hoax, a PR stunt, or that the firm has decided not to pursue the lost device publicly to maintain secrecy.
Many have also highlighted similarities between the latest purported loss and an incident last year, when an Apple engineer left a prototype iPhone 4 on a bar stool. It was subsequently found by another patron and sold to a gadget blog for $5,000.
The two men alleged to be behind the sale pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor theft charges on Thursday.