Apple Store Theft: Genius Imposters Steal $16,000 In iPhones

An Apple Store theft resulted in a $16,120 loss for one of the tech giant’s New York locations. The incident is the second publicized theft of this size in less than a year. Former NBA star Rex Chapman made off with $14,000 worth of goods from an Apple Store in Arizona last July. Although the theft amounts were similar, the methods used to fleece the stores differed.

According to DNAInfo, New York police reported that two men got away with 19 iPhones from an Apple Store in SoHo on June 1. The thieves dressed in blue shirts similar to what Apple staff wear. They confidently walked into a repair room in the back of the store and removed the iPhones from a drawer. One man hid the iPhones under his shirt and then both walked out of the store without notice.

The NYPD is currently conducting an investigation into the incident, and Apple is withholding comment on the matter at this time.

Considering everything that could have gone wrong in this Apple Store theft, it is surprising that the thieves pulled it off.

The backrooms of Apple’s stores are guarded with a passcode entry lock — meaning that they either had the code or they followed another staff member to the “off-limits” area, which would require being close to at least one employee who would certainly notice that the men were not coworkers if spotted.

The door to the employee-only area is also often located next to the Genius Bar, where customers bring their devices for repair consultations. A Genius staff member could have easily spotted the imposters even if they had a code to get through the door.

Once in the back of the Apple Store, there is the matter of securing 19 iPhones without getting caught or raising the suspicion of anyone else in the back. With proper timing, this might not be too difficult. However, after taking and concealing all those phones, the two escaped the same way they entered. How the thief carrying nearly two dozen phones under his shirt managed to walk out the front door without being noticed is the real mystery.

DNAInfo stated that the crime occurred at approximately 5:30 p.m. Fox News gives a possible explanation for why the thieves got away with the Apple Store theft.

“The after-work rush is one of the busiest times of the day: real employees are busy hustling iPhones to paying customers, and the security is probably busy trying to stop school kids smearing iPads with fingerprints.”

Picking the busiest time of the day was a calculated move by the crooks. Real employees dealing with the chaos of paying customers mitigated the risks of being recognized as anything other than another blue shirt employee.

The other Apple Store theft was much more subtle but just as effective.

According to ESPN, former NBA star Rex Chapman pleaded guilty to shoplifting $14,000 worth of merchandise from an Apple Store in Arizona. Chapman had stolen items from the store on seven separate occasions and then sold the items to a pawn shop to support an addiction to prescription pharmaceuticals. Chapman entered the store and pretended to pay for items using Easy-Pay on the Apple Store app and then just walked out.

It appears that other than unmonitored surveillance, Apple Stores do not employ theft deterrents such as the RFID tags that you will find in many department stores. The open environment and trusting staff almost beg for shoplifting, and the Easy-Pay system provides a cover and potential alibi.

MacRumors reported in 2012 that a teenager was arrested when he tried to steal a set of headphones from an Apple Store. The teen said it was a mistake caused by the Apple Store app. He had scanned the headphones with the app and navigated to the final screen, but did not complete the transaction.

He accounted what happened when caught by store staff in an interview with MacRumors.

“I pulled out my iPhone, and realized it still showed the Pay Now button, and not the receipt, I told them I had no intent of stealing; I’ve been in the store for an hour, and I’m still willing to purchase the headphones. They said, they see this all the time, and that they knew I had the intent to steal, and this was an easy excuse.”

Apple filed larceny charges against the teen, and he was tried in October of 2012, but there is no media coverage of the outcome of his trial.

Chapman pleaded guilty to four felony charges of Class 6 larceny. The judge reduced the charges to misdemeanors and sentenced him to 18 months of supervised probation and 750 hours of community service, and ordered him to pay restitution to the store of over $15,000.

The New York imposter thieves are still at large.

While the Apple Store imposters and the Rex Chapman case are two different types of theft, one thing is common. Apple Store’s open environment makes it a target for such crimes. Fortunately for Apple, surveillance mitigates losses from theft to an acceptable level, leaving paying customers feeling satisfied and empowered when they can choose to perform an Easy-Pay transaction.

[Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images]