Fort Lauderdale Police say they have broken up an iPhone theft ring that reportedly totaled upwards of $500,000.
Police said Devon Persad, 26, masterminded the operation while working as a manager at the Apple Store inside the Galleria Mall. Authorities said Persad also solicited other employees at the store to help with the scheme.
“He would organize dinners and they would attend and discuss the scheme,” Judge John Hurley said during a bond hearing. “He’s the ringleader, allegedly, and there’s a lot of money missing right now.”
Police say the scheme started at a Best Buy at the Sawgrass Mills Mall where Persad allegedly got help from Sean Flynn, who had the inventory of the iPhones at the store.
“So he would have this list of serial numbers and then the leader at the Apple Store would have his employees take on any locked phones or stolen phones,” said Fort Lauderdale Detective DeAnna Greenlaw. “They would bring them in to the genius bar at Apple in the Galleria. They would present the phone that should not have been accepted, not exchanged, and they would give them an exchange.”
According to FLPD, the employees would receive $75 for each cell they swapped out after using the serial numbers off of the list provided, allegedly by Flynn.
Police said a total of five Apple Store employees were in on the scheme. Four of the employees were initially arrested and a fifth, Otis Ferguson, turned himself in to police Wednesday night, officials said. During a bond hearing Wednesday, the wife of 44-year-old Daniel Scott, among those arrested, begged Judge Hurley for mercy.
“I know for a fact what he did was against the law,” Carolina Scott told the judge. “He only did it because he was desperate because he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.”
Fort Lauderdale Police said they know the stolen “brand new” iPhones were sold, but they don’t know to whom.
“We are looking for any information to put missing pieces together and we will find who was working alongside this group,” said Detective Greenlaw said.
Ferguson was charged with one count of obtaining property over $50,000 by fraud, one count of grand theft and one count of stolen property organized. It was unknown whether he has an attorney.
If you have any information about the crimes, call Broward County Crime Stoppers at (954)-493-TIPS (8477).