New Report Details Inside Look at San Francisco Police Department Undercover Stolen iPhone Sting

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iphone5frontback.jpgAs a part of The Huffington Post's "iTheft" series of articles detailing the black market for stolen iPhones, the website has posted a new feature that takes an inside look at how the San Francisco Police Department handles its stolen iPhone sting operations.

The man in the hoodie is indeed a policeman: Officer Tom Lee is playing the role of decoy in a sting operation targeting buyers of stolen iPhones. Beneath his sweatshirt, he wears a small recording device taped to his chest. Lee approaches a heavy-set man standing outside the red awning of a Carl's Jr. burger restaurant. The man wears glasses and a black pinstripe suit. He inspects the iPhone and offers $100.

Lee takes the cash, hands over the phone and gives the signal. Four officers swoop in and place the man in handcuffs, notching another arrest in the intensifying cat-and-mouse game playing out here and in other major American cities between law enforcement and criminals looking to profit from the burgeoning trade in stolen mobile devices.

The sting operation was one of many set up to try to poison the iPhone black market in San Francisco with "fear and distrust" so that would-be buyers and sellers would be wary of engaging in any illegal transactions.

To facilitate the arrests, the SFPD solicited help from Apple. The company loaned a number of iPhones to the department, which plain clothes officers "sold" while undercover. Officer Lee himself is an Apple "expert," having been employed at an Apple retail store before joining the SFPD.

As noted by The Huffington Post, the program has a number of critics that question both its efficiency and its legality, equating it to little more than entrapment.

According to the San Francisco Police Department, nearly half of the robberies in the city have involved smartphones, which lines up with what a New York police officer said in 2011 when a similar sting operation led to 141 arrests.

The popularity of the iPhone and the iPad has also led to additional crimes such as counterfeiting, which Apple has fought in the past through lawsuits.

Top Rated Comments

BigJayhawk Avatar
101 months ago
God Forbid . . .

Yeah... Having Apple be involved in a government program that creates "fear and distrust" in America's 14th largest city. That, just doesn't sound good.


God Forbid . . .

Wouldn't want to create "fear and distrust" IN THE CRIMINAL WORLD of America's 14th largest city! What's this country coming to when an "honest criminal" has to worry about "fear and distrust" when they are selling goods STOLEN from the actual citizens that BOUGHT the iPhone in the first place!

What an ENTITLED WORLD we are creating here . . .

Seriously???
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Peace Avatar
101 months ago
This is bound for PRSI for sure.

Entrapment all the way. Apple should be ashamed for participating.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dukebound85 Avatar
101 months ago

This is bound for PRSI for sure.

Entrapment all the way. Apple should be ashamed for participating.


How is it entrapment? Why should apple be ashamed

Honest sellers wouldn't have hassles with the law
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Azathoth Avatar
101 months ago
How about cleaning up the frigging drug dealers from the Travel Lodge parking lot on Mission St? Or catching the actual criminals that are stealing the phones? The criminals will ship them off to another city and sell them there to circumvent this.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
unobtainium Avatar
101 months ago
How is this even legal? The buyers have no way of knowing whether or not the phone is stolen. Granted, it's pretty sketchy to buy an iPhone from some guy on the street, but "sketchy" should not be enough for criminal charges, especially since no crime was actually committed (the buyers were not, in fact, purchasing stolen phones).

Edited: just read the original article on HuffPo and it's a bit clearer now, but I still think there must be a better way than entrapment.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Quu Avatar
101 months ago
This is surprising to me that they are going after the buyers. I would assume that a large amount of buyers would be seeking a phone for themselves from this market meaning they are a one time buyer.

Wouldn't it be much more efficient to arrest those selling? You know the people who are probably involved in the organised crime of stealing and fleecing the phones? Where stopping one person would remove more than just one transaction from the black market? :confused:
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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