Five men robbed Apple of $12 million in fake iPhone return scam

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Apple devices, especially iPhones, are among the most popular consumer electronics products globally. It’s the main reason that there’s a huge market for counterfeit Apple devices. In a recent case, the U.S. The Attorney’s office in the central district of California arrested five men for robbing Apple of more than $12 million by returning fake iPhones and other devices. The men exchanged around 16,000 fake iPhones, iPads, and other devices to Apple Stores for real products.

The accused scammed Apple by exchanging fake iPhones and other products for real ones

These men would take fake iPhones or other Apple products to the company’s stores. There they would claim their device was faulty or had a problem and ask for replacement products. The five accused, all Chinese nationals, were charged for the fake iPhone scam and were taken into custody last week.

People in the scam include Yang Song, Junwei Jiang, Zhengxuan Hu, Yushan Lin, and Shuyi Xing, who all now face multiple charges. These include aggravated identity theft, trafficking counterfeit goods, and conspiring wire and mail fraud. Notably, these men conducted this fraud for close to a decade, from at least December 2015 to March 2024. The case will go to trial soon, with the accused facing several years in prison if found guilty of multiple fraud charges.

The fake products exchanged from Apple Stores had stolen real identification numbers

The 16,000 fake products involved in the scam had stolen real identification numbers. That was the reason Apple employees at the company’s store were unable to distinguish between real and fake devices. Since the fake products had real identification numbers and were under warranty, the Apple Store employees exchanged them with working devices.

The men coordinated with other groups of people in the ring located in China. They had non-functional iPhones and other Apple products delivered to multiple locations in California. The scammers returned the fake products through more than 10 Apple Store locations in Southern California.

It’s worth mentioning since these products were replaced with stolen identification numbers, the true owners could be deprived of the AppleCare repairs.

A similar scam happened in 2019

This isn’t the first time Apple has been scammed like this. A similar case happened in 2019 when three people were accused of returning 10,000 fake iPhones and iPads for real devices. They exchanged these fake Apple products in the U.S. and Canada for real working devices. These men were sentenced to up to 51 months in prison for robbing of around $6.1 million in counterfeit goods.

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