Lost iPhone surveillance video has been erased

Owner of bar where an Apple employee lost control of a unreleased iPhone says surveillance video from that weekend has been deleted.

Greg Sandoval Declan McCullagh
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.
2 min read
We may never know what happened to the unreleased iPhone that was lost at Cava 22 in July. Greg Sandoval/CNET

Police in San Francisco won't be able to provide sneak peeks of any upcoming Apple iPhone.

Investigators from the San Francisco Police Department had expressed interest in reviewing surveillance video taken in a bar where an Apple employee lost an unreleased iPhone in July. On the eve of an Apple press conference where the iPhone 5 is expected to make its debut, CNET has learned the surveillance video that may have shed some light about the handset--how it was lost and who possessed it--has been unintentionally erased.

The story of the missing unreleased iPhone, the second one Apple has lost control of since April 2010, was first reported by CNET. The story began in July when two members of Apple's internal security unit told police that an employee lost the device at Cava 22, a self-described tequila bar in San Francisco's Mission District, sometime around July 22.

On July 24, four police officers and the two Apple security personnel visited a home in the city's Bernal Heights neighborhood where Apple told officers they had electronically traced the phone. According to sources with knowledge of the investigation, the Apple security employees knew that someone had plugged the phone into a computer at the address. With the help of the police, the Apple employees searched the home of Sergio Calderon, a 22-year-old man, who reportedly acknowledged being at Cava 22 the night the iPhone was lost, but said he knew nothing about its disappearance.

Jose Valle, whose family owns Cava 22, told CNET that the bar is equipped with six cameras that snap a photo of different areas of the building every three or four minutes and then store the images on a hard drive. Valle said late last month that police investigators had come by to look at the video but Valle wasn't around. He said he contacted them later but they had yet to follow up.

SFPD is investigating whether officers acted properly in helping Apple's employees enter Calderon's home. Calderon told SFWeekly, an alternative newspaper, that the Apple employees posed as policemen.

Apple has declined to comment on any part of the story and Calderon has not responded to numerous interview requests. Lt. Troy Dangerfield, an SFPD spokesman, was not immediately available for comment today.

As for the video, Valle had said in multiple interviews that he possessed footage for the night in question and even offered to allow CNET to review it for a fee. CNET declined to pay.

Valle had always said that once the hard drive is full, it gets wiped. And that is what occurred in this instance, he said in an interview on Friday.

There are so many questions about Apple's lost iPhones, it's hard to know where to begin. Why did police wait so long to ask Valle for the video? Valle said Apple never approached him. If the company's investigators were so interested in finding out who had the phone, why not make a deal to review the bar's video?

And how about this one: why do Apple employees have so much trouble hanging on to unreleased phones, anyway?