The recent Washington state Apple Store theft is one of a long list of massive heists of Apple products. Here are some of the biggest, including upgrade scams, truck hijacking, and warehouse thefts.
In a particularly brazen theft in early April. thieves broke into the Apple Store at the Alderwood Mall in Lynwood, Wash. After cutting through the wall of an adjacent coffee shop, the thieves stole hundreds of items, at a total reported cost of over $500,000.
As of mid-May, there had not been any reported arrests in the case. And while it was the most prominent Apple Store theft of 2023, it’s far from the largest-ever heist of Apple products.
Here are some in which thieves came away with huge, illegal hauls. Most of them involved thefts from airports, warehouses, or trucks, or the same ring executing multiple Apple Store thefts.
iPhone theft and upgrading scam (2022)
In September of 2022, seven people who called themselves the “Clear Gods” were arrested for running the largest extended iPhone theft ring in history, an iPhone fraud scheme that pulled in an astonishing $28 million over the course of two years.
The seven participants were accused of adding themselves as “authorized users,” upgrading devices and services, and stealing directly from stores, sometimes with the help of store employees. In all, the plot entailed 26,000 different fraudulent transactions, according to Frank on Fraud.
According to the Department of Justice, the members of the group “engaged in an ongoing scheme to defraud, using the personally identifiable information (PII) of other people to acquire significant numbers of Apple-branded cellular devices on credit, which were then resold for profit.”
The case had not yet gone to trial as of May 2023.
Miami Airport heist (2016)
In October of 2016, eight people were charged with their parts in the theft of 23,000 iPhones from a storage facility at Miami International Airport, with a value of nearly $6.8 million. According to an Associated Press account at the time, the group used a disguised tractor-trailer to take the shipment from the airport.
Federal prosecutors charged two separate conspiracies in the case. One entailed the theft of the iPhones themselves, while the other consisted of the act, over several months, of selling the 5S and 6S devices.
Seven of the defendants pled guilty, although the eighth, a man who worked as an Uber driver, was acquitted in early 2018.
UK truck hijacking (2020)
In November of 2020, thieves in the U.K. hijacked a truck and made off with $6.6 million in Apple products. The organized theft entailed tying up the driver and a security guard and moving the items through two other trucks.
Around the same time, Amazon workers in Spain carried out a theft of $592,000 worth of iPhones, by placing them in certain orders.
As of a year after the U.K. hijacking, no charges had been brought in the case, although at least six people had been arrested and questioned, The Northampton Chroncile reported in 2021.
Belgian warehouse heist (2009)
In November of 2009, just two years into the iPhone’s existence, thieves in Belgium reportedly stole 3,000 or 4,000 of the devices, per differing reports. That puts the total value of the items between $2 million and $3 million in U.S. dollars.
The theft took place at a warehouse owned by CEVA Logistics in Willebroek. According to reports at the time, the thieves climbed a fire ladder to reach the roof of the facility and then cut a hole in that roof.
The stolen devices were the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. It doesn’t appear the thieves were ever caught, although stolen iPhones from the heist reportedly appeared soon after on the Russian black market.
JFK Airport iPad Mini heist (2012)
In November of 2012, federal agents arrested an employee of John F. Kennedy International Airport for the theft of 3,600 iPad Mini devices, with a total value of $1.9 million.
As pointed out by numerous news outlets at the time, the thefts took place at the same JFK Airport building as the 1978 Lufthansa heist, which was memorably dramatized in the film Goodfellas.
The man who was arrested reportedly “made suspicious inquiries” about both the shipment, and how he might access a forklift. The following year, the airline employee was sentenced to two years in prison.
Million-dollar theft rings in California (2018 and 2022)
They weren’t individual thefts, but two times over a five-year period, law enforcement in the state of California busted large theft rings that targeted Apple Stores.
In September of 2018, then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the arrests of 17 people who had carried out months of Apple Store thefts throughout the state, resulting in over $1 million of losses. That ring included two thefts in two days at the Palo Alto Apple Store, one of them only hours after Tim Cook visited the store.
Then, in February of 2023, California Attorney General Rob Bonta confirmed that another ring had been caught for a string of Apple Store thefts. This one consisted of eight people, who also incurred a loss of about $1 million, across several California counties.
There doesn’t appear to have been any public announcement of the adjudication of the 2018 arrests, while the charges remain pending in the 2023 cases.
Walmart distribution center theft plot (2017)
In 2017, a South Carolina man who worked at a Walmart distribution center executed a scheme to steal a large cache of Apple products, including iPad and Apple Watch devices. The plot entailed hiding the items in delivery trucks, sending them through FedEx, and selling them.
Five years later, the man pled guilty to four counts of mail fraud, for the theft of 1000 iPads, 942 Apple Watches, and “other assorted high-end electronics.”
He was ordered to pay restitution of $536,000 and forfeiture of $461,000.
Dutch moving truck heist (2017)
In another truck heist of iPhones, this time in the Netherlands, Dutch police nabbed five men who they say carried out the theft of 500,000 of iPhones — from a moving truck — in July of 2017.
The men, all from Romania, drove up to the back of the truck in a van and allowed one of them to climb onto it. Then, through a hole in the roof, that man threw the iPhones into the van. Headlines around the world compared it to something out of the Fast and the Furious movies, and also described it as “the Romanian method.”
The men were soon arrested at a nearby park, with the iPhones recovered. After the gang was connected to other thefts throughout Europe, several members were jailed in France in 2022.
Street theft of more than 100 iPhones (2022)
In what’s probably the worst iPhone theft ever committed against an individual, a man was robbed of $95,000 worth of iPhones, 125 of them, near the Fifth Avenue Apple Store in November of 2022.
It could have been a lot worse because the man had purchased 300 iPhone 13s from the store, a purchase that for some reason took place at 1:45 a.m. He was carrying the devices in three bags, and when the thieves attacked him, they only got away with one of them.
There do not appear to have been any arrests in connection with that case.
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