SAN FRANCISCO -- An Apple lawyer told law enforcement officials last week that a prototype iPhone belonging to a company engineer was stolen, sparking an investigation that led authorities to seize computers from an editor whose blog bought the device, a prosecutor said.
Technology blog Gizmodo.com said it obtained the next-generation phone after the Apple engineer lost it, leaving it in a bar in the San Francisco suburb of Redwood City on March 18. A patron found the device on a stool and handed it to another customer who sold it to Gizmodo for $5,000 after trying unsuccessfully to contact Apple, the blog said.
A lawyer representing Apple and the engineer contacted the San Mateo County District Attorney's office to report the item as stolen, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe.
"They said there was a belief that this had been stolen and we want to make sure it's investigated, and we agreed," Mr. Wagstaffe said Thursday. "It was reported as stolen property."
The lawyer and engineer were referred to California's Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team, which started an investigation, Mr. Wagstaffe said.
Brian Hogan, the 21-year-old college student who sold the device to Gizmodo.com, "regrets his mistake in not doing more to return the phone," his attorney, Jeffrey Bornstein, said Thursday.
Mr. Hogan was in a bar when someone handed him the phone after finding it on a stool and then left, according to his lawyer's statement. When people sitting near Mr. Hogan said the phone wasn't theirs, he took it with him, according to Mr. Bornstein. A friend told Mr. Hogan he would call AppleCare, the company's product-support service.
When Hogan tried to open a page on the Facebook website, the phone shut down and was inoperable for the rest of the time he had it, Mr. Bornstein said.
"Even though he did obtain some compensation from Gizmodo, Brian thought that it was so they could review the phone," Mr. Bornstein said. "Brian believed -- and Gizmodo emphasized to him -- that there was nothing wrong with sharing the phone with the tech press."