Apple searched his home for errant iPhone; now he plans to sue

Talks with Apple have ended without a deal. "We're moving forward" with a lawsuit, the man's attorney tells CNET.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
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The bar in San Francisco's Mission District where where another unreleased iPhone went missing.
The bar in San Francisco's Mission District where where another unreleased iPhone went missing. James Martin/CNET

Apple may need to brace itself for a lawsuit stemming from its July pursuit of an errant, unreleased iPhone in San Francisco.

Sergio Calderon, the San Francisco man whose house Apple security officials searched at the time, has ended negotiations with the company and is preparing to file a lawsuit, his attorney, David Monroe, told CNET today.

"The talks have ended and we're moving forward," Monroe said. The next step would be to draft a complaint to file in the next few weeks, he said, although he declined to say what what allegations the lawsuit would raise.

Apple declined to comment.

In August, CNET reported that an unreleased iPhone had gone missing in a local bar, and that a nearby home had been searched in an effort to recover it. The San Francisco Police Department initially denied any involvement.

But a few days later, the SFPD reversed its position. Spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield belatedly confirmed that police helped to "assist" Apple in an unsuccessful attempt to recover the device. (SFPD's statement was titled "iphone5.doc," a reference to the iPhone 5 now expected next year. At the time, it fueled speculation that an iPhone 5 prototype had gone missing.)

David Monroe, the attorney representing the man whose San Francisco house was searched.
David Monroe, the attorney representing the man whose San Francisco house was searched.

"The real problem here is that police failed to disclose to my client that Apple employees would be searching his home," Monroe has previously said. He's called Apple and SFPD's actions "outrageous."

CNET's August report said that Apple enlisted SF police for help locating an unreleased phone that an employee had left at Cava 22, a Mission District tequila lounge, in late July. Apple internal security told police that the device was priceless and the company was desperate to secure its safe return, then led police to a house in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.

One of the six people who visited the house looking for Calderon said they would obtain a search warrant if he didn't agree to let them in, according to two sources with knowledge of the event. Calderon then voluntarily submitted to what he claims he believed was a search by police officers, but which in reality included Apple employees. In an interview with SF Weekly, Calderon voluntarily disclosed that his house was the one that had been visited.

Following a search of the house and garage, Calderon said he was offered a cash reward for the return of the phone of approximately $300, though was not told what the device was.

Last year, an iPhone 4 prototype went missing when Robert Gray Powell, an Apple computer engineer who was 28 years old at the time, left it in a German beer garden in Redwood City, Calif.

In early August, San Mateo County prosecutors filed misdemeanor criminal charges against Brian Hogan and Sage Wallower for allegedly selling the prototype to Gawker Media's Gizmodo blog (which escaped indictment). Hogan and Wallower pleaded no contest to the charges in October.

As a result of the high-profile losses, and another incident allegedly involving Apple's global supply manager, Apple forced security chief John Theriault into retirement last month.