There’s probably little that’s more valuable to Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) than an unannounced, unreleased product. But if a San Francisco resident’s claims are true that Apple investigators impersonated police officers in trying to track down a lost iPhone 5, the company could face serious charges in what might be the first test of new Apple CEO Tim Cook.
The story started earlier this week, following a report by CNET that San Francisco police and Apple investigators trying to locate a lost iPhone 5 left in a Mission District tequila bar (I can vouch for the quality of the ceviche) went to the house of a man in nearby Bernal Heights after activating a tracking device on the phone. They searched the man’s house with his permission, according to the report, but found nothing.
However, SF Weekly, a San Francisco publication, confirmed Thursday that the San Francisco Police Department had no record of its officers or detectives participating in such a visit. It then tracked down one of the people who lived at the house, Sergio Calderon, who said that the people who came to his house said they were police officers.
A phone number left with Calderon by one of the investigators belonged to Anthony Colon, who told SF Weekly he was an Apple employee in a phone conversation but declined to comment further. A LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) profile for Colon identifying himself as a former San Jose police officer and current “senior investigator” at Apple has been deleted.
Apple employed private investigators in its search for an iPhone 4 that went missing last year, but was able to convince the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), a partnership of federal and California authorities, to do the actual searches of people linked to the investigation. Posing as police officers (and reportedly using the residents’ immigration status as a threat) in order to find a lost product would be a much bolder (and stupider) way of trying to locate a lost product.
Apple has not commented on the report. A representative for the San Francisco Police Department said it would likely investigate the circumstances of the report after talking to Calderon.
The iPhone 5 is expected to be formally unveiled sometime over the next several weeks.
Updated 4:09 p.m. – The San Francisco Police Department has retracted its earlier claim that none of its officers were involved in the investigation, acknowledging that “three or four” plainclothes officers accompanied two Apple security investigators on the visit to Calderon’s home, according to a new story from SF Weekly. The officers did not enter Calderon’s house, however: the search was conducted by Apple employees, who did not identify themselves as police officers according to an updated statement from Calderon.
Apparently no report was ever filed, which raises all sorts of new questions about the police department’s cooperation with Apple’s investigation. This story is likely not over.