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

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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As 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.

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

unobtainium

macrumors 68020
Mar 27, 2011
2,397
3,507
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.
 
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Azathoth

macrumors 6502a
Sep 16, 2009
659
0
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.
 
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astral125

macrumors 6502
Jul 24, 2011
288
0
I'm glad everyone knows this is entrapment without knowing the circumstances of the sting. If it were entrapment, in California no less, these charges wouldn't stand up for two seconds. Just like prostitution stings, I'm sure they make the "customers" aware that they are purchasing stolen goods.

If you have ever had your iPhone stolen, then you should feel no sympathy for the crooks on the other end who buy your iPhone and make the theft worthwhile. These police officers are trying to cut down on the theft, I think we can give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they know how to do their jobs.
 
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al256

macrumors 6502a
Jun 7, 2001
866
287
How is it entrapment? Why should apple be ashamed

Honest sellers wouldn't have hassles with the law

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.
 
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BigJayhawk

macrumors regular
Jan 8, 2003
224
145
New Jersey
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???
 
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SoGood

macrumors 6502
Apr 9, 2003
442
224
Should be done worldwide. Take out the middleman and there won't be as big a market for stolen goods.
 
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leon44

macrumors 6502
Jun 17, 2010
341
148
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
It really is entrapment if they're encouraging people to buy a stolen iPhone so they can arrest them. Even if they're made aware the phone was stolen, you're much more likely to consider buying it with enough encouragement at the right price.
This would never be allowed to happen in the UK, 'to catch a predator' is considered entrapment here because it really is!
 
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flottenheimer

macrumors 65816
Jan 8, 2008
1,243
227
Up north
What I would love is for Apple to make their products remotely lockable/unusable.
Thereby making Apple Product theft a no go.

While on vacation my 7yr old son just had his brand new iPod Touch stolen. It would have been nice if I could simply press a button in iCloud/Find my iPhone and lock it down as stolen. Apple knows the serial on all the Apple gear I own.
It should be simple to set up, for them — and it would be a really good reason to buy Apple rather than anything else (no one will steal your Apple gear — it's basically worthless, if stolen).
 
Comment

gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
17,624
4,928
What I would love is for Apple to make their products remotely lockable/unusable.
Thereby making Apple Product theft a no go.

Don't know about iOS, but for MacBooks it's no problem. It's called "firmware password". You'll need a password to start your MacBook. Replacing the hard drive won't help. Guys at the Apple Store can't unlock it (they can call some place in Cupertino that will tell them how to unlock it, but they will carefully check your ID before they do that).

The problem is that it doesn't help, because the thief doesn't know about it. All it gets you is the nice feeling that the thief doesn't benefit from the theft.
 
Comment

OxTaster

macrumors newbie
Apr 29, 2013
1
0
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.

Reading comprehension must not be your strong suit. Also, you clearly don't know what entrapment is. Entrapment is when law enforcement cajole or otherwise convince a person to commit a criminal act. Providing opportunity is NOT entrapment.

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It really is entrapment if they're encouraging people to buy a stolen iPhone so they can arrest them. Even if they're made aware the phone was stolen, you're much more likely to consider buying it with enough encouragement at the right price.
This would never be allowed to happen in the UK, 'to catch a predator' is considered entrapment here because it really is!

News flash: uk law differs from us law. You can't say what it is or isn't based on semantics. It is not entrapment under US law, nor by my common sense.
 
Comment

Quu

macrumors 68040
Apr 2, 2007
3,040
5,271
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:
 
Comment

QCassidy352

macrumors G4
Mar 20, 2003
11,525
4,744
Bay Area
This isn't entrapment. Entrapment requires two things: 1) that the police induce the suspect to commit the crime AND 2) that the suspect was not independently inclined to commit the crime. The first prong is easy to show, the second almost impossible.
 
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pubjoe

macrumors 6502
Aug 14, 2007
269
9
I despise this set-up.

A buyer may feel intimidated into agreeing after being merely 'provided opportunity' by a dodgy looking hoodlum. In this set-up, the buyer has no opportunity of redemption. You don't need to be verbally encouraged to feel pressured.

Victims of potential muggers have willfully given items away without persuasion so that they avoid confrontation. They obviously have no legal recourse, but it's understandable behaviour.
 
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cdmoore74

macrumors 68020
Jun 24, 2010
2,413
711
I sold my wife's iPhone 4 on Craigslist for $120. I had it for $180 and dropped it to $160 and then to $120. I wanted a quick sale. You mean to tell me that if demand is weak and my price is cheap I could be targeted as a thief? What is the magic number so that the police will not come a knocking?
How about remotely activating a "this phone was reported stolen message" as soon as the phone is turned on. And in order to clear it you take the phone to Apple with proof of purchase. What these people are doing is so low tech I'm surprised that Apple is participating in it. There are plenty of high-tech software related ways to verify that a purchase is legit. You could even install a app that the buyer must activate to verify if phone was stolen. If they don't verify phone they could be found guilty along with the seller. Very simple ideas here folks.
 
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pmz

macrumors 68000
Nov 18, 2009
1,949
0
NJ
Love the people on here who think subverting the law is the answer, as long as it catches a crook or two.

You closet sociopaths get to vote too. Wow.
 
Comment

bikeoid

macrumors newbie
Jul 3, 2010
16
3
The problem is that it doesn't help, because the thief doesn't know about it. All it gets you is the nice feeling that the thief doesn't benefit from the theft.

It wouldn't be too long thieves would realize that their theft work was made useless by being bricked, and that there's no market for a bricked iPhone.
 
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pmz

macrumors 68000
Nov 18, 2009
1,949
0
NJ
Reading comprehension must not be your strong suit. Also, you clearly don't know what entrapment is. Entrapment is when law enforcement cajole or otherwise convince a person to commit a criminal act. Providing opportunity is NOT entrapment.

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News flash: uk law differs from us law. You can't say what it is or isn't based on semantics. It is not entrapment under US law, nor by my common sense.

Yes it still is. The fact that law enforcement pretends its not doesnt change a damn thing.
 
Comment

pubjoe

macrumors 6502
Aug 14, 2007
269
9
Why not pose as a buyer?

They're going after the easily led because they can't outwit the thieves.
 
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