Man allegedly uses iPhone to track victim's car prior to robbery-murder | Cult of Mac

Man allegedly uses iPhone to track victim’s car prior to robbery-murder

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The Find My app has been hiding a secret.
Criminals used the iPhone's tracking capabilities to commit a robbery.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

A Florida man allegedly used an iPhone as a makeshift tracking device, attaching it with magnets to the car of a man he intended to rob, then using it to follow him to a party at a nearby apartment. Suspect Derrick Maurice Herlong and an unnamed accomplice then robbed the man and fatally shot another person, Orlando police said.


Herlong allegedly “zeroed in” on his target, who was carrying Gucci and Louis Vuitton bags, at The Mall at Millenia in Orlando. Herlong then followed the victim’s silver Lexus in his own car. The Washington Post described the complicated incident in a weekend story:

“At some point, the man stopped at a 7-Eleven. That’s when, according to a chain of events described in an arrest affidavit, Herlong and an accomplice took an extraordinary step to ensure they didn’t lose him: They attached a homemade tracking device — an iPhone rigged with magnets — to the bottom of the man’s car.

Minutes later, the pair cornered the man as he entered a gathering at a nearby apartment, robbing him at gunpoint, stealing his car and fatally shooting another man, 32-year-old Jacaris Rozier, according to police.”

Herlong pleaded not guilty to murder, home invasion, carjacking and grand theft. His defense attorney declined to comment on the charges, the Post reported.

A high-tech theft

The incident, which took place on February 19, sounds like the result of a tightly organized criminal campaign. Herlong allegedly purchased the iPhone weeks earlier, using stolen identification from an earlier theft so it would not be traced back to him.

As homicide detectives investigated the shooting scene, they found a small nylon bag hanging from the underside of the Lexus. According to their report: “Attached to the bag were two magnets. Inside the bag was an Apple iPhone set to ‘do not disturb’ and wrapped in a sealed Ziploc bag. The phone’s battery was close to or at full charge, indicating it had been placed there recently.”

This isn’t the first time the iPhone’s tracking abilities came to play in criminal activity. Usually, it works the other way, though. Over the years, Apple’s Find My app has been used plenty of times to track down thieves.

Recently, concerns arose about how AirTags could be used for stalking. Using an iPhone as a tracker might work, but it seems like a poor choice, according to an expert quoted by the Post.

Turning an iPhone into an improvised tracking device is relatively simple — a quick Google search turns up many tutorials on how to do it. It’s illegal to spy on a person with a GPS phone without the person’s consent, but there are legitimate reasons for using the devices, such as tracking personal belongings….

Bill Marczak, an expert in surveillance at the University of California at Berkeley, said he was unfamiliar with any cases involving someone using a cellphone to track a victim. It may not even be that efficient, he said.

“Haven’t heard of this modality of ‘planting a cell phone on someone’ being used by criminals before,” he said in an email. “I don’t immediately see why someone would prefer to plant an iPhone rather than a purpose-built GPS tracker (which would be cheaper, and have much longer battery life than the iPhone).”

Source: Washington Post