of a San Francisco home where Apple had apparently tracked the missing device.
iPhone prototype redux
In 2010, an Apple engineer left an iPhone 4 prototype at a Mountain View bar after going out for drinks for his birthday. Another bar-goer named Brian Hogan found the device and took it home. After removing a case designed to disguise its appearance, Hogan discovered he was in possession of what appeared to be a prototype iPhone device. Hogan and a friend shopped access to the prototype around to several news sites, Ars included, and Gizmodo ultimately bought it for $5,000. The site subsequently published details of the device long before Apple unveiled it publicly.
Now, it seems the story is playing out all over again, but the sequel is a bit different. In July of 2011, a similar incident occurred with what may be an iPhone 5 prototype. The device was reportedly left behind at a tequila bar named Cava 22 in San Francisco's Mission District. Two people who are part of Apple's security team attempted to track the device using its GPS location feature, apparently pinpointing it to the home of an individual named Sergio Calderón.
According to Calderón, six people came to his home in late July asking if he had been to Cava 22 on the night the phone went missing, and if he had it in his possession. Calderón admitted he had been there on the night in question, but said he knew nothing about a missing phone. At least one of the people present at Calderón's home claimed to be an SFPD officer.
Calderón said he agreed to a search after being told the police could return with a warrant, though the search turned up nothing. Apparently members of Apple's security team also went through Calderón's computer to look for evidence that the device had been plugged in. Those same Apple investigators—one of which was later identified as retired San Jose Police sergeant Anthony Colon—offered money for the device and even made veiled threats about contacting the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS) when the search turned up nothing. "One of the officers is like, 'Is everyone in this house an American citizen?' They said we were all going to get into trouble,'" Calderón said.
No police involvement—until now
The story up to this point was already stranger than last year's version, but here's where it gets even more confusing.
There was no report filed by the SFPD officers involved in the search of Calderón's home, it was later revealed, because they didn't personally assist in the search. Four of the six people that went to Calderón's home were SFPD officers while two were Apple's own investigators—and it was the two Apple investigators who reportedly searched the home. Apple also didn't file a report of missing property, ostensibly to avoid details of the missing device becoming public.
However, CNET reported this week that the SFPD has finally begun an internal investigation into the unusual search. Calderón claims that the Apple investigators did not identify themselves, and he believed they were police. Criminal attorneys who spoke to CNET said that the threats and lack of transparency about who the Apple investigators were could be the basis for action against the police department. However, since nothing was damaged or lost in the search, Calderón may have little recourse aside from filing a formal complaint.
Police Chief Greg Suhr told the San Francisco Chronicle that the SFPD often assists private investigators in similar cases. "The reason we do civil standby is to make sure there isn't a problem," he said. Still, he insisted that his officers did not participate in the search itself. "Whatever conversations the [Apple] employees had with the resident, I can't say."
The department's internal investigation will attempt to determine if the officers themselves stepped outside of bounds during the incident.
This isn't the first time police have been accused of going too far in helping Apple. Last year, police raided the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen to gather evidence of possible criminal wrongdoing in the events that led up to Gizmodo's iPhone 4 exposé. Hogan and friend Sage Wallower were recently charged with misappropriation and possession of lost property, while Gizmodo and its editor were not charged with any crime.
How this year's story will play out remains a mystery. Short of turning Calderón's home upside down to locate the missing iPhone 5, it doesn't sound as if Apple or the SFPD have many leads—not that Calderón would comply at this point, given his recent experience dealing with Apple. Then again, the company might be keeping any leads it has under wraps, lest the company be faced with another high profile leak like it did with the iPhone 4.