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Friday, September 2, 2011

Lost iPhone 5: Bernal Heights Man Says Visitors Impersonating Police Searched His Home (Exclusive)

Posted By on Fri, Sep 2, 2011 at 10:47 AM

click to enlarge apple_police_badge.jpg

Update (3:25 p.m.): Police now say they did assist Apple security with the home search of a Bernal Heights man. Read the full story here.

A Bernal Heights man says that six officials claiming to be San Francisco Police officers questioned him and searched his family's home in July for a lost iPhone 5 prototype they asserted had been traced to the residence using GPS technology.

The man's statements to SF Weekly in an exclusive interview add significant new twists to the unfolding story of the unreleased iPhone 5 that was reportedly lost at a San Francisco restaurant this summer.

If accurate, his account raises the possibility that Apple security personnel attempting to recover the prototype falsely represented themselves as police officers -- a criminal act punishable by up to a year in jail in the state of California -- or that SFPD employees colluding with Apple failed to properly report an extensive search of a person's home, car, and computer.

"This is something that's going to need to be investigated now," SFPD spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield said, when informed about the Bernal Heights man's statements to SF Weekly. "If

this guy is saying that the people said they were SFPD, that's a big

deal."

The tech-news site CNET reported earlier this week that an unreleased iPhone 5 had been lost in the Mission district restaurant Cava 22. The incident echoed the earlier loss of the iPhone 4 prototype last year, which led to a scandal as Apple and law-enforcement sought to recover the phone from the gadget blog Gizmodo, which purchased it for $5,000 from men who found it.

According to CNET, San Francisco police officers and Apple employees traced the phone to the home of a man in Bernal Heights, but were unable to find it there or get the man to acknowledge possessing the prototype. Yesterday, however, SFPD spokesman Officer Albie Esparza told us that no records of any such activity by SFPD officers existed, as they should if police had been involved in a home visit and search.

SF Weekly
has now spoken with Sergio Calderón, 22, of Bernal Heights, who believes his was the home referred to in the CNET article. Calderón got in touch with us yesterday in an effort to clarify who, exactly, had searched his home on an evening in July.

"They threatened me," he said during an interview at his house. "We don't know anything about it, still, to this day."

Calderón said that at about 6 p.m. six people -- four men and two women -- wearing badges of some kind showed up at his door. "They said, 'Hey, Sergio, we're from the San Francisco Police Department.'" He said they asked him whether he had been at Cava 22 over the weekend (he had) and told him that they had traced a lost iPhone to his home using GPS.

At no point, he said, did any of the visitors say they were working on behalf of Apple or say they were looking for an iPhone 5 prototype.

Calderón, an American citizen who lives with multiple generations of family members, all of whom he said are staying in the U.S. legally, said one of the men also threatened his relatives about their immigration status. "One of the officers is like, 'Is everyone in this house an American citizen?' They said we were all going to get into trouble.'"

Anxious to cooperate, Calderón said, he let them search his car and house. He also gave them access to his computer, to see whether he had linked the phone to his hard drive or had information about it in his files. Failing to find the phone anywhere, he said one of the "officers" offered him $300 if he would return it.

"They made it seem like they were on the phone with the owner of the phone, and they said, 'The person's not pressing charges, they just want it back, and they'll give you $300,'" he recalled.

click to enlarge Anthony Colon, as pictured on his Facebook page
  • Anthony Colon, as pictured on his Facebook page
As the visitors left, one of them -- a man named "Tony" -- gave Calderón his phone number and asked him to call if he had further information about the lost phone. Calderón shared the man's phone number with SF Weekly.

The phone was answered by Anthony Colon, who confirmed to us he is an employee of Apple but declined to comment further. According to a public profile on the website LinkedIn, Colon, a former San Jose Police sergeant, is employed as a "senior investigator" at Apple.

Dangerfield said police plan to look into Calderón's allegations.

"There's something amiss here. If we searched someone's house, there would be a police report," Dangerfield said.

Apple's media-relations department did not return calls for comment.

Since the SFPD disavowed any knowledge of the search for the phone, some tech reporters have speculated that the story of the lost phone was a hoax or publicity stunt engineered by Apple. CNET based its report on a single anonymous source "familiar with the investigation."

Calderón, for his part, said he and his family are eager to figure out exactly what happened.

"Who did I let in?" He asked. "Who was harassing me?"

UPDATE, 11:31 A.M.:
Colon's LinkedIn profile has already been taken down. Luckily, we scanned a printout of the profile, which you can view here, and helpful reader Jim Dahline (@jdahline) took a screenshot of the profile page, which you can see on the next page.

UPDATE, 11:42 A.M.: Lt. Troy Dangerfield of the SFPD called to clarify his above statements: The police will only investigate if Calderón chooses to speak with them directly and share information about the people who came to his house. (So far, the SFPD has not spoken to Calderón, but only learned of his story through SF Weekly.) "If the person is reporting that people misrepresented themselves as San Francisco police officers, that's something we will need to investigate," Dangerfield says. "We take people representing themselves as police officers very seriously."

UP NEXT: Pictures from Apple investigator Anthony Colon's LinkedIn profile and Facebook page.

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Peter Jamison

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