The man who stole over $100,000 in iPhones from Apple by walking them out the front door
Hello Apple community,
I’ve been holding onto this story for a long while now. I’ve told friends and family about this, and a few coworkers knew about this as well. I’ve never seen it posted anywhere before, so I figured this would be a good place to share the story. I’m fairly positive this was handled 100% silently and internally by Apple and their temp agency Volt. I don’t think there’s any reason not to share this publicly, so here it is.
A long time ago, during the iPhone 4 and 4s era, myself and other recent computer science graduates from college took ‘Technician’ jobs at Apple in Elk Grove, CA, doing repair work on iPhones and iPads. That’s what we were *told* it would be anyways; as it turned out it was mainly just ‘diagnostic’ work, and the ‘diagnostics’ were tapping the screen to make sure various features were working.
This was a painfully boring job, and the tests were so poorly designed that we ended up failing probably close to a thousand iPads for wifi problems that actually had no wifi problems at all. There were many other issues with the tests that, to this day, still has me wondering how they managed to be implemented… but that’s not what this story is about. I digress.
The work was divided into stations. The first couple stations would grab the iPhones (or iPads in the iPad line) that came in and factory reset them using iTunes, each station using about 8 computers simultaneously for higher throughput. The rest of the stations down the line would take each phone and test it for a specific function to make sure it was working. Phone calls, speakerphone, wifi, screen issues, etc.
The work was performed in a warehouse that was fenced in with metal detectors and security all over the entrances. At the time, you were allowed to bring in your phones. If you had an iPhone, you had to register the serial number with security. They would give you a laminated print out with your name and the serial number, and when walking through security you had to show them the print out as well as the serial number on your actual phone. You also had to move the screen around so they could verify it wasn’t just a picture of the serial number that you put on the phone.
Attempted theft was surprisingly common. I recall at least a few people that were caught attempting to sneak out iPhones. The most notable of which was the man who put a few phones into his pockets, walked through the metal detector after his shift, and when it went off he dashed for the door in a full blown sprint. Hilariously, *this guy was huge and didn’t run very fast at all*, and security got to him *within seconds*.
Successful theft also happened. One of my colleagues later admitted to me (after my employment was long over) that he got an iPhone out on his last day of employment by wearing a giant belt buckle and took an iPhone to the bathroom (located inside the secured area) and taped the iPhone to his skin directly underneath the buckle. When metal detectors went off, security would pull out those metal detector wands and scan you down, and if you showed them your belt buckle was setting it off they’d just let you walk through after the rest of your body was scanned. I always wondered if he prepped the night before making sure he was very smoothly shaven so he wouldn’t rip out hairs when removing the phone (lol).
Now to the main point of the story: one newer technician who we’ll call Dave, about a few months into his 12 month contract, came up with a very creative way to get iPhones out of the building. During this time, none of us knew what was going on, all we knew was that Dave had a station that he really liked working at; the receiving station. For most of us it was the worst station to work at because your speed set the pace for the rest of the line, and it never had any downtime. We almost always just let him have that station. Even when stations were rotated or assigned by management, he usually managed to hang on to that one by talking his way into it.
As time went on, some of us started realizing that Dave had 2 iPhones he would bring with him in to work, and then take out back through security every day. One of us asked him about it and he said he had a personal phone and a second phone for a side business he was running. A satisfactory answer for us; nobody asked him about it again.
More months passed, and I got a job offer at another company for a ‘real’ IT position, and several of the techs hired with me were at the end of their 12 month contract, so there was a sudden rotation in people. A couple weeks after my employment ended, I got a call from one of my former colleagues about Dave. Apparently, one of the new techs was inspecting Dave’s work really closely, and noticed that Dave was rooting (jailbreaking) some of the iPhones he was working on, and changing the serial numbers to match the serial numbers on his laminated print outs.
Dave would simply walk out to his car with 2 iPhones during lunch, drop them off at his car, walk back in empty handed, and walk back out at the end of the day with 2 more iPhones.
The tech reported him to management and he was arrested. Apple was quiet about the numbers and details, but those of us who worked that specific line who had been at Apple for a while could put 2 and 2 together, and we knew exactly how long this was going on. Figuring that Dave would have easily been able to steal 4 iPhones a day most days, 5 days a week, over a 3 to 4 month period, the total number of iPhones adds up fast!
Last I heard many years ago, Dave was serving time in jail. If I had to guess, I’d bet he’d probably tell you now that the theft wasn’t worth it.