Criminals allegedly used identity theft to steal thousands of iPhones from across the United States over several years. Their scheme involved assuming stolen identities and going to stores run by wireless carriers to pose as customers looking for upgrades to new models.
Stealing iPhones on a huge scale
The gang was investigated by both the New York Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A sworn statement from NYPD Detective Armando Coutinho says:
“From at least 2012 to the present, the Fraud Ring perpetrated a wide-ranging scheme to obtain valuable, new electronic devices, predominantly Apple iPhones. During the course of the conspiracy, the Fraud Ring fraudulently obtained more than $19 million worth of devices. To facilitate the scheme, the Fraud Ring traveled to approximately 34 different states.”
The alleged ring included at least six men, all of whom were named in the criminal complaint. According to Coutinho:
“The Fraud Ring regularly engaged in intrusions into existing customers accounts with cellular service companies in order to obtain iPhones. The Fraud Ring frequently obtained new iPhones or ‘upgrade’ phones by paying only a small fee in the store, while charging the vast majority of the purchase price to existing customers accounts, without the consent or knowledge of these existing customers.”
A shipping company that noticed suspicious activity discovered the scheme. A “cooperating witness” in the gang also worked with law enforcement.
Police didn’t estimate how many Apple handsets were stolen to make up the $19 million total. Still, dividing a typical iPhone price by the total amount stolen indicates they probably got away with 20,000 or more.
Criminals frequently target Apple, and sometimes aren’t so circumspect about it. Gangs have resorted to grabbing computers off the counters of Apple stores and running away with them.