Saturday, January 16, 2010

Busting an iPhone thief

Monday - The Setup

The whole thing started when my plane landed in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon at 2:55pm coming from Cabo San Lucas. The guy sitting next to me on the plane asked me to loan him a pen so that he could fill out his customs form. I watched him fill out the form and clearly remember his birth year of 1984, but am a bit unsure about his name. I think it was -----, but in this story, we will refer to him as Pinche.

How It Was Lost

As we were about to disembark from the plane, I sent my friend Ramiro a text saying that I will be out of customs in about 30 minutes. I placed my phone back in my right pocket. I was sitting in seat 27A, next to the window, and Pinche was sitting in seat 27B. When it came time to move into the aisle, an old lady sitting in 27C started moving and so I stopped, but Pinche saw this as an opportunity. He bumped me, then jumped in front of the old lady and ran off of the plane. I waited for the old lady to step into the aisle, and I walked behind her. Five seconds later, I reached for my phone and it was not in my pocket anymore. I waited for everyone to exit the plane and went back to my seat. I looked everywhere but was not able to find the phone. One of the flight attendants (Karen) offered to help. She called the phone and it was not ringing. This was strange because I had perfect reception a minute ago. We concluded that the phone must be in customs because there is no reception in the customs area at LAX. My guess at this point was that as I rose from my seat, my phone fell out of my pocket and into Pinche’s bag. I hurried off of the plane and into the customs area.

Faceoff

In customs, I skipped passed the line and found Pinche. I asked him, “hey, did you accidentally grab my phone?” He responded, “No,” and took out another mobile phone from his pocket. What could I do? I didn’t want to accuse someone of a crime without any proof. I got the phone number of Karen the flight attendant, filed a report with the lost and found department for American Airlines and left the airport.

Tracking the iPhone

When I got to my office, I pulled up the MobileMe site and used the Find My Phone feature. To my surprise, the phone was in Sun Valley at a Daniel's Taco Stand!!! My conclusion was that the phone had actually fallen in Pinche’s bag and he was driving around without knowing that he has my phone!

Why did I assume this? Because if I were to steal an iPhone, I would unload it fast. I would not want to drive around with homing device after committing a crime! I wrote down the address in Sun Valley. At this point, I remotely locked the iPhone to protect my personal information. I also placed a message on the screen saying, “Please return this phone to Sam. (310) 856-xxxx. I did not get a call. I sent message after message. You can make the phone sound an alarm even if is on vibrate… so I was hoping that Pinche would find this thing and return it.... but no cigar. Boy, the phone must be deep inside his bag and probably in the trunk of his car because, an hour later, the phone had moved again, to another location in Sun Valley. Then, to my dismay, the phone went offline! I guessed that it’s probably inside of a parking lot, or just in one of a billion AT&T deadzones. I kept tracking it and by 10pm, it was at 1500 Gramercy in Los Angeles. Interesting swimming pool in this picture no?

Now I was beginning to get suspicious. I had sent 20 messages. Pinche must have opened his bag by now.

Tuesday - Faced with Defeat

The next day, I tracked the phone again, and it was traveling on the 99 freeway at exit 255 in Stockton! Now I knew that the phone was stolen. It might have been the cleaning crew, it might be Pinche, it might be someone who has purchased it. Again, I assume that whoever has it will soon, unlock, jailbreak and sell the phone on eBay. I sent message after message, but seeing that the phone was offline I assumed that it was either dead, thrown out of a car, or unlocked and sold. Goodbye my dear iPhone 3Gs. We had a beautiful month and a half together.

Wednesday - It's All Over

I did not see any trace of the phone all day. Whoever had it had either turned it off, or reprogrammed it. I began looking for a new phone. A new iPhone without renewing your plan runs about $700 after taxes. Man, I was feeling down. It's so depressing when you realize you've been had.

Thursday - Don’t Pickpocket the Devil

I got up on Thursday morning and checked my MobileMe account. Someone had turned the phone on at 7:30pm the previous night and he was in Lodi California. The iPhone lives! I posted the image of the apartment building and a map of the neighborhood on Facebook.

Many of you began commenting and a genius recommended me to check the calls made from the phone. I didn’t expect to find any calls because, why the hell would an iPhone thief leave a trail like that? It’s such a stupid crook thing to do.

I checked the calls, and HOLY CRAP!!! Someone made 2 calls to Mexico, one call to LA and one call to somewhere near Stockton within 5 minutes of me losing my phone!!! Pinche picked my pocket and began making calls as he was walking towards customs.

SON OF A BITCH - I WILL GET YOU!

Now, I like using google to find information on people, but I never really dive in too deep. By stealing my phone, Pinche gave me the moral greenlight to stalk the shit out of him and take away any sense of privacy he has for the rest of his life. I really couldn't get law-enforcement to help (they said that unless someone's life is in danger, they cant do anything), so my only option was to keep fucking with this guy until he returns my iPhone.

I wanted him to know, I know where he is, I know who his family members are, I know where he lives, I know who his roommates are, I know who his roommates cousins are, I know what his sister drives, I know where he eats, I know his name, I know his age, his mothers age… anything and everything to prove to this Pinche that he is holding Satan’s cell phone.

My tools are, Google, AT&T, MobileMe, White Pages and ussearch.com.

The (323) Number

When I googled the (323) number, I came up with a name and an address.The address was the same location that I had tracked the phone to on Monday night. This is where he slept that night. Notice the

interesting swimming pool? I also got a name. The name sounded familiar. I remembered that Pinche had filled out “m-----” on his customs form. At least now I know for sure that the guy on the plane is the one who took my phone, and he doesn't seem very iPhone savvy.

I ran a ussearch on the phone number and name and came up with an apartment number at this location. There are 6 people living in Apt ### at this address. I saved this information in case I needed some "make you shit your pants from the sheer terror of how little privacy I have now" ammunition.

I called the number, but the person that answered was an old lady and she only spoke in Spanish. So I asked my friend Ramiro to talk to her. He told me that the woman is really old and he doesn't want to harass her because she seems like a nice lady. He just told her that someone who has stolen my phone called her on January 11th at 3:44pm and that we just want the phone back.

Me and a friend planned to go to the apartment on Friday and leave a document with all this information. Just so they know that we know who they are, and that we know where Pinche is and what he's done!

The Mexico Number

I asked a lovely friend in Mexico to call the number since I was guessing nobody at that number would talk English. My friend told me that this number is from a place near Guadalajara. This is interesting because now I can devise that Pinche was not in Cabo for vacation, but probably connecting a flight. Also, he might be fearful of getting sent back to Mexico. More to scare him with! The woman who answered denied, denied and denied some more. She said she lives in a house with several other people and she has no idea who called who. She also said that she cant read or write so she cant write down our number or get back in touch with us. I have a feeling that this woman was his mother.

We called her again later that day to see if she found out who the person was who called her twice on Monday. Again she denied, but I think we got to her. I'm sure she had a talk with Pinche after that call.

The 209 Number

I called the (209) number. A woman picked up who called herself Luz. Luz was a bit confused as to why I was calling. I explained that someone who had stolen my phone had called her. She denied it, but I told her that she had a 4 minute conversation with him. She still denied it. Again I said, "he called you right after we landed, then he came to your town the next day. You must know him." Finally she gave in and said that perhaps someone had left her a message (but who leaves 4 minute messages?). She “checked” the message and said that it was silent. No name and no message. I was going nowhere with this call unless I had more SCARY personal info on her. I said I would call her back.

I googled the number and got nothing. Then I tried ussearch.com. For $10, I got Luz's full name and three other names associated with the phone number. Then I ran the names in the White Pages and got an address. I googled the address and got a streetview of the house. There is a white Ford Explorer parked out front of the house. Now I know what they drive. Muh huah hah hah ha ha hah hah hahhhh ha haaaaaa


Friday - I Own You Pinche!

I called her back and left a message using her full name, her husband’s full name, and mentioned their address in Manteca California. I also told her the street address of where I had tracked Pinche in Lodi California. I said, “If you’re protecting this guy, what you should do is have him call me and return my phone. If he doesn’t return my phone, I promise that I will have every law enforcement agency looking for him."

Twenty Minutes Later

Luz called me and was extremely nice. She said she knows who called me and she is very mad at him. She apologized for his behavior and said that she was very embarrassed by what he's done. Then, she said in a tone that is only possessed by angry Latinas, "If he doesn't call you, I WILL MAKE SURE HE RETURNS THAT PHONE! I WILL GET TO HIM AND I WILL TEACH HIM A LESSON!" I thanked her and she insisted that I should not thank her because it's my phone that was stolen. I'm guessing by the fact that she was embarrassed by the situation that Pinche is somehow related to her.

One hour later

I'm assuming at this point that Pinche's mother, sister, aunt, uncle whoever these people were have talked to him and he is aware that we know his location. This is the image that was on the iPhone when he would turn it on. It says his name and his address in LA.

Pinche called. However, now he didn't speak any English. No problem, Ramiro was in the office and he grabbed the phone. By now, we have so much info on this guy that we should be able to hear him crap his pants. Now, Pinche is not a good liar. First he said that he bought the phone in Mexico, which is ridiculous because I used it in front of his face in LA. Then he said that he's in Nevada, but we had a track on him in Lodi California. He said his name is Alfonso... His voice was quivering. Ramiro told him to put the phone in a package and mail it overnight to LA. Pinche said "Okay, but you know, I spent a lot of money buying this phone. Can you reimburse me for the money I lost?"

Ramiro asked, "Who sold you the phone?"

"A friend of mine."

"Well you have a very bad friend, maybe you should ask him to give you your money back."

"Yeah, but I don't think he can."

"Okay, what we can do is, file a police report and have him fined and arrested, then he can pay you back too. We know the ---- family that live in 1500 Gramercy in LA, the ---- who live in Manteca and we know where the robber has been for the past five days. Should we file the report?"

"that's okay. I'll mail it."

He gave us a phone number to reach him by, and I immediately did a background check on the number. It was a Lodi California phone number belonging to a man named Fernando N -----.

We told him that we'd give him a check for the postage if he doesn't have it. He was very happy about that.

I showed Ramiro the name that had come up on the search. Ramiro asked, "Who is Fernando N. ____"

Absolute silence.

Ramiro started giggling.

Pinche gave us an address in LA to send the check to. It was the second location that I tracked in Sun Valley on Monday afternoon. Ramiro mentioned that we saw him at that location at 6pm on Monday.

Silence. Then he said, "It's okay. You don't have to send a check."

I will still send him a check... to see what name he puts on it. I dont think he realizes that I can see a scan of the check on the bofa.com website.

Saturday - 12pm - Reunited

446 comments:

  1. brillinat!
    Although it seems like a crap-load of effort, I love the story and that makes it worth it.

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  2. Sam - That's a happy ending.Brother you are a bit OCD but appreciate your tenacity. Thank you for sharing (even though this ordeal probably stressed you out this past week).

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  3. Great read. Nice job being persistent and getting what is rightfully yours back.

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  4. amazing. entertaining. congrats!!!!

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  5. Sam,
    This was great!!!! I know your involved in the entertainment buisness and I think you should make a short film. I hate reading, but this was the best story and would love to see this in a movie format.

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  6. Out of curiosity, what exactly is this "tone that is only possessed by angry Latinas"? I'm offended by your post, but I'm also open to hearing you explain how tones of anger are allocated across race and gender lines. Thanks.

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  7. @tothecurb - It's hot... like when you bite on a spicy chili pepper dipped in a passionfruit mojito kind of hot.

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  8. Sam,
    Apple should pay you...because your "adventure" just sold me MobileMe. I will be buying a subscription as soon as I can afford to do so.
    Awesome story man.

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  9. I love your story! iPhone becomes a big hit these days in Korea. Can I translate it into Korean language and use images in this article?

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  10. Great story.. And congratulations on getting your phone back.. Being persistent does pay off.

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  11. man, you should be a detective!

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  12. one hell of a story :D glad you got your iphone back!

    enjoyed reading it

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  13. Your a freakin' champion man Good on ya!

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  14. It never ceases to amaze me at the amount of effort someone will put into correcting an injustice against them. And it never ceases to amaze me the amount of laziness someone will display when it comes to correcting the injustices against us all.

    We can find a petty thief and tell the story of vindication with brilliant ease, but I bet no one even knows the home address or could conceive of a plan of vindication against the far more insidious theiving corporate executive.

    Good on you, now make this project bigger!

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  15. LOVE THE STORY. Great job getting the phone back! Im sure the bum was illegally here too, most of them are. PS. I know the latino tone you wrote about... Miami is full of that crap.

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  16. Dude thats like way cool.

    RT
    www.online-privacy.int.tc

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  17. I disagree with these commenters saying "too much effort." I'd put in a week of occasional online searches and phone calls for a phone valued at $700. Not to mention you got to right a wrong. Great job!

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  18. THIS IS INCREDRIBLE!!! Omg, what an inspiration.

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  19. great job. hopefully he doesn't have any friends as savvy as you, now that he has your name, address, and BOFA account details

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  20. This is amazing. My iPhone was stolen at gunpoint a few months ago. This is a great blueprint for someone to get their phone back. Bravo sir.

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  21. This rocks!
    I'm glad you got your phone back, and I admire your googling skills.
    I like to find information about people too, but it's tricky. Here ind Denmark a lot of people have preepaid cards on their cellphone, and those numbers are not connected to a name or address or anything.

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  22. Nice, but it's more about how the guy are clueless about the iPhone than any sort of 1337 haxorz trick you pulled.

    You're lucky he isn't more knowledgeable about it. It was a lucky break.

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  23. I would have done the same exact thing!! Very nicely played!!

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  24. Fantastic. Maybe a MobileMe account really is worth it.

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  25. DO NOT SEND A CHECK.

    Your check will have your bank account and routing information on it. A check like this can be used to siphon money out of your account and steal your identity.

    I have had to close and reopen bank accounts because of a stolen check being used in this manner.

    Send a money order if you must.

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  26. OMG that made my day! I'm happy that you got your phone back. Thank god for technology!

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  27. Cool story Bro. There are so many shit people in this world.

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  28. Well played.

    What really sucks is that even with MobileMe tracking, the police can't act, and you have to become a cyber terrorist instead of the cops just logging into mobile me and collaring a thief on their lunchbreak.

    And to Studenttx - if your phone is taken at gunpoint, this probably isn't a safe approach :-)

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  29. Sir, i take off my hat for you. Well done.

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  30. Way to go. good job sticking it to this punk.

    As for the effort expended, the principle of the issue justifies it.

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  31. I really liked the story and the tenacity of yours, but as you wrote before, anybody with more Apple products expertise would have make all your efforts useless within hours.

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  32. This was awesome! I mean obviously, probably not so for you during the whole ordeal (although perhaps toward the end it got pretty entertaining). But certainly in retrospect, considering the outcome, what a tale! Well done!

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  33. A kindly "Well done!" from Germany.

    a very grim sense of humor :-)

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  34. Haha! Mexicans are always stealing shit! Good job finding it.

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  35. Definitely $700 worth of tenacity by most folks' standards. The basic math for the value of Tenacity probably looks something like: Effort < Cost, especially with the ready availability of information and given your Effort was less than some folks', with your (previously-mentioned) "mad googling skillz". Throw in the other variables of Irritation (decreases Effort), Stress (could increase or decrease Effort), Risk (increases Cost), and "Justice" (increases Cost), and I still think you came out ahead. Kudos.

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  36. Oh my god, can't believe it. Hope all the iphone thieves are nerds... ;-)

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  37. Wow, must have been a great feeling to get it back, and to find out what had happened to your phone! It's so annoying to loose something and never know where it ended up.

    Bravo on the P.I. stuff.

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  38. way to go man that was an epic win now you call flight attendant Karen

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  39. All of the effort is well worth it, if only to know that Mr. Pinche is now giving every mobile phone he sees suspicious looks, wonding how much it knows about him. You should send him, and everyone he knows, Christmas cards next year. Sign them "From the iPhone you stole"

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  40. I am glad you found your phone and also glad that you can probably make a nice 30 minute short film about this and it would be quite entertaining!

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  41. This is a realy great blogpost more exiting than most of the books I ever read especilly since its a true story.
    Also Congratz for getting it back have fun with it ;-)

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  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  44. If these people are all out dealing and covering for people with stolen merchandise, why block their numbers?

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  45. great work ;) you really owned him!
    why the hell didn't that stupid guy eject the sim right away? ^^ or at least turn off the phone? he sure could have read it on the internet with his "new phone" ;)

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  46. btw, congrats on having your phone back! you should get a second one for your amazing investigation!

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  47. Ever think of working for the police or an agency? I think you'd do alright lol

    Awesome job!

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  48. To the people saying "too much effort," I ask, what do you value your time at? If it takes 20 hours of searching and work to recover a $700 phone, "too much effort" means that your time must be worth more than $35 an hour.

    Cool story -- count it as a win for the good guys!

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  49. I want an iPhone battery that can last 5days!!!
    FAKE story is FAKE

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  50. Congratulations! Well done! You were happy as the battery didn't go dead during these days! K.

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  51. I had a lot of fun reading this, like watching some thriller movie! Congratz!

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  52. Everyone and their dog has an iPod/Phone compatible charger these days. Stupid comment is stupid.

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  53. This story is an EPIC WIN... gratz!

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  54. Best modern fairy-tale ever. I could so see this as a short film!

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  55. That is a GREAT story. I will have to start calling a few people in the office Pinche just for fun! At least you know you have a new job if the need ever arrives. Oh and even though I have never lost my cell phone, I think I am going to go buy an iPhone now!

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  56. A *very* similar experience happened to me a few years ago. Only my phone was stolen by a 8 year old little mexican girl. When I tried reporting it stolen to Sprint, they suggested isntead of turning it off, that I use the "sprint family locator" after 2 days of knocking on doors in the south side of town (where the main language is spanish), I got a call from the little girl who said she would drop it off at a radio shack. She did. :)

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  57. Why didn't you just go to this guy's house on monday, kick his ass, take your phone back, and save a week's worth of your time?

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  58. I love the tenacity! Way to go man, if you can stick it up a thief's culo, do so!

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  59. Wow, this is awesome Internet stalking :) I'm naturally happy about the way you can catch thieves with a Web browser so easily, and in such a high-tech way — this looks like a plot out of CSI :) but with better, more realistic graphics.

    On the other hand, the question that begs asking is what criminals will do with this kind of technology... heh.

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  60. Awesome story!

    (Thanks Woot! for getting the word out on this story!)

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  61. Cleverest use of internet evaaaar
    well done
    specially the last part about the check
    i thought ur going to be nice or something :D

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  62. wow. way to go!!! you can't let people get away with taking advantage of you! i would of done the exact same thing! congrats!! good for you!! oh and by the way, i am a latina and i know EXACTLY what angry latina tone you're talking about, my grandma possessed it and now i do. cheers!!

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  63. I am glad you got the phone back but you should not have let that a#*hole off the hook. He should at the least have been brought out of his house in handcuffs, in front of his neighbors.

    Letting him off like that just says there are no repercussions.

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  64. Fantastic! Also kind of scary how much personal info is available online, but at least you're using it for good not evil!

    Now if only my stolen car had had a homing device, remotely-enabled function and disabling, and was stolen by such a tech-inept fool. Funny that a $700 device has such, but not a $20,000 one. . .

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  65. WE ARE ALL TIRED of being ripped off. If more people took this kind of action we would all be better off today.
    PS you don't have to be latin to know what an angry latina sounds like. Just listen you'll get the messsage.

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  66. Oh my god... that story is just awesome!

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  67. I am on the edge of my seat right now. This is a classic story line for a movie. Perhaps you could make a Short Film of this in a documentary style.
    All the technology we have today is just amazing.

    Glad to see you got your phone back.

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  68. Haha great work :) Would be pretty pissed if someone stole my Iphone to but after reading this... I am almost wishing someone did :P *NOT*

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  69. You're on the reddit.com front page, and I'm glad you were because this story is awesome. Congratulations on the return of your phone and I hope that many other victims of theft take your story as inspiration.

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  70. Excellent! Love it! Awesomesauce! Grade A+ in social engineering.

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  71. i wish i could've done this for my $1100 bass. unfortunately, these types of electronics are not compatible with detective tools i.e mobileme :(

    great job though! i will use this technique if i ever lose an iphone!

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  72. this is the best. I can not abide by a thief and am glad that with some crazy interwebz ninja moves and some perseverance YOU WON

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  73. Don't send a check! You are asking for more trouble from this douche. Don't do it. It isn't worth it. Be glad you're done with the little bitch

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  74. so, the police dont care about stolen property anymore, they dont care if someone has broken the law, just if someone's life is in danger. Why should the police not act on your behalf if they would act on behalf of a store reporting a shoplifter?

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  75. @pbg, I thought the same thing. I wonder if they actually do help catch shoplifters... or if that's not a big enough concern anymore.

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  76. I will post an update on this soon. I have the guys name confirmed.

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  77. Nice work. I hope you cleaned the phone thoroughly before holding it to your cheek like that ...

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  78. Cool story bro..! Lol but seriously, that's a great read. I'm glad you got your phone back, I like how you played with him a bit but in the en just wanted it back and to teach him a lesson :p good man (lots of people would have just gone and 'taught him a lesson' so to speak)

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  79. Oh, this is excellent. I am so glad that you got your phone back by being a huge geek!! =)

    Seriously, though, your tenacity and cleverness is very refreshing!

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  80. Ever thought of going into law enforcement? Or becoming a private investigator. Dog the iPhoneHunter!

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  81. The only disappointing thing is the misspelling of "thief" in the URL.

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  82. omg i had a brand new iphone stolen from me when my sister mailed it to me via INSURED mail. I know it was one of my neighbors (hoodlum kids) in Queens, NY but i didn't have any proof. Ended up buying another one at a local At&t store. =(

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  83. Awesome story, but I say you post all of the guys personal information so the internet army can ruin his life. Bastard had it coming. He'll just be back stealing stuff tomorrow.

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  84. Awesome story! I live in Lodi and was reading the whole thing thinking if it didn't end well and the phone was still in Lodi, I'd drive over to the address and knock on the door. Glad you go reunited!

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  85. Dude. File a claim in small claims court for punitive damages and recovery costs. It is a very easy process, especially since you've already done all the hard work of establishing your case and identifying the theif.

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  86. Greatest story every told. BOOKMArked!e cig

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  87. awesome story! unbelievable what one can do nowadays, if he knows WHAT he can do!

    thanks for sharing!!

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  88. My husband and I had a similar situation a couple years ago, except it was a stolen laptop and our detective tool was myspace and it took us like 4 months to get the laptop back. You have inspired me to finally get our story written down!
    Way to go! Anyone who says this is worth the time/effort is an idiot. They have no idea of the thrill you get when you get something back that has been stolen from you, using your own cleverness and determination.

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  89. I meant "anyone who says this isn't worth..."

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  90. I read first from Kevin Rose (digg.com founder) doing a mobileme tracking, but yours is good, a very good one.

    Thats nice

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  91. I love This.... Serious your a hero in my eyes - Not taking shit in a none violence way is very rare.
    Thx for writing this.

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  92. Last summer someone stole my phone at the beach and I tracked down the person, found her... Fought for 2 weeks to get my phone back but unfortunately, because of my persistent, the theft said I was beginning to annoy her, her friends, and family she was gonna file a report against me for harrassment and all that jazz. In the end, I never got my phone back and had to buy a new one. Good job, you got lucky!

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  93. ... sorry gotta say this was pretty stupid of you.
    First is this considered stalking?
    Second you had him mail this to you?
    (so basically he knows where you live too...)

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  94. hmmm he wasnt very smart but im happy u got ur phone back...man remind me not to screw around with u!

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  95. that's what I would have done! :)

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  96. @plasticpopcorn4
    I gave him the address to the guard house at a gated neighborhood.

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  97. Taking back your life is definitely worth it! And most thieves of opportunity are pretty stupid, as evidenced by your story or any news story about run of the mill criminals. Good job at intimidating his relatives - shame works SOOOO much better than threats. Especially for scumbags who have scumbag friends and aren't going to take any kind of fall for them.

    I'm so glad I signed up for my phone's service like this; and glad it works! My hero!

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  98. Big ups from Germany for that action. Big brother is watching ya, right ;-)

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  99. Congratulations, yo! That is an excellent effort. Glad you didn't get on some mexican cartel hit list. Always good to foil a thief.

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  100. Maybe this is a stupid question, but in US, isn't that what police are for? I mean, it's all fun to do this and all, but why not go to the police with the info that You have and not have this guy being jailed and/or deported like he should've been? It doesn't seem that he's at all regretting what he's done, judging by his continuous lies.

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  101. Brilliant!! You're my hero. I don't care how much effort it took, its resourceful! Just like the iPhone taught you to be! :) And to Shustreek, in the US the Police have far too much stuff to deal with than to chase a phone down.. Bravo Sam!! You should start a tracking business. Its good Karma and people would pay!

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  102. power to the nerds!!

    respect shabba man!

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  103. Take a bow that was soo frickin' brilliant...

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  104. Hot damn! Great post -- I LOVE the lengths you went to scare the sh*t out of this guy. Do you think he'll try this again? I would say no. Talk about "big brother" wathcing you. :) Good job!!

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  105. Awesome! There is justice for thieves!

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  106. OMG, I would've done the same thing. Good for you!

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  107. Excellent! Amazing detective work!

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  108. Interesting story for sure and, indeed, congrats in getting your phone back. But between the lines, something else is going on here, which not too many people are seeing, or so it seems.

    - Why is the police unable to help in a situation like this? Isn't this the kind of thing that they're supposed to solve: theft? Even the priliminary information (the phone numbers and your iPhone's location) should be enough data for a police investigation. Instead, they force you to investigate for yourself or just drop the whole case. I can't help finding this a little odd. "To protect and serve" - isn't this the motto of the police in the US (or am I just seeing to many American movies)? Obviously that motto is ommiting something vital: who!? Apparently not "us": the common person with an issue...

    - It's interesting that you can find out all this information by using some publicly available websites. Imagine what government agencies can find out about you by using other, more covert, means and technology. You used this for your own rights and I agree, but of course there are numerous people who will use this to their own advantage. Now that can be scary...

    - Why isn't a service like this (remote locking, tracking and tracing, etc) standard with any phone you can buy?

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  109. I'm very impressed. This is exactly the sort of thing I would want to do if I was in your position... Doing that kind of tracking and finding information... but until now, I didn't know how it would all play out and what all the steps would be! The things you can do with the internets these days! Good on you!

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  110. Good job!
    One question, what is the purpose of the adjective 'old' as in old lady gets up from her seat. Did her being old change your situation in any way?
    Non-the-less, thanks for the story, and most of all for the outline of how you accomplished this grand reunion.

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  111. @webtweakers

    Unfortunately the situation is the same here in the UK - Unless the robbers are actually present then they do very little if anything!

    The last break in we had was the theft of two bicycles from our back yard .. they actually ripped the guttering off to get them! Beside the point though ... what happened was the following ..

    Get home, notice bikes gone, call police,

    Police give incident number for insurance claim and say will be round later

    Police never arrive

    2 months later have letter from police saying they were unable to apprehend the perpetrators..

    NO sh!t sherlock! ;)

    It was vastly annoying at the time as we knew who took them as a neighbour saw them enter the yard ;)

    I guess the service isn't free with any phone because they can make more money by making you have to sign into it :D Got to love corporate greed :D

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  112. Wow you've convinced me to keep my MobileMe account after a couple months of debating its usefulness! Thanks! I too have a 32GB 3Gs and would do as much as you did to get the treasured device back!

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  113. sorry, but that seems like a riddiculous load of effort, if you knew who he was, and could find out exactly where he was, surely you just go straight to the police? is that not what they are there for, dealing with crime...

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  114. Freaking fabulous. I'd have gone all crazy OCD and busted that sucker too. Nice work. :)

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  115. I am maybe a bit in love now. And afraid of your powers.

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  116. Aren't you happy you bought that (otherwise useless) MobileMe account? :-P

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  117. love the story. gotta love technology.

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  118. That was sheer brilliance. We techies wont stand for our gadgets being stolen!

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  119. you're the man! what am I talking... you're fuc***g JACK BAUER! what an awesome read :) best wishes from germany! flo

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  120. I bow to the greatness of you.

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  121. @Janniel - Old Lady was very slow, and I thought it was rude to jump in front of her. Pinche picked my pocket and jumped in front of Old Lady and ran off of the plane while I walked slowly behind her. I guess you're right... if she was a Young Lady, I would still have waited for her to go first, and Pinche would do exactly the same thing.

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  122. Brilliant story! I love how you were so reasonable and fair in dealing with a crook. (I picked this up off an email list in the UK, so your story is going global now...)

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  123. I didn't know Mobile Me was so useful. I canceled my account after it stopped being accessible from ordinary web browsers while traveling. Nice to hear they cater to their iPhone customers!

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  124. that was great. FUCK PINCHE, send his illegal ass back to mexico - hope he dies a slow painful cancerous death. :)

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  125. Pretty tight work, but being less of a gentleman, I probably would've just hunted him down and Sobchak'ed the hell out of his car.

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  126. oh an i love the reunited photo!!!!

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  127. Bloody Brilliant!

    I could regail the story of the Text Message SPAMMER I tracked-down and had fired when he wouldn't send me the 10 cents his message cost me, but this is an awesome story with a great ending! WELL DONE. Mind if I make this a national radio story?

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  128. To those who have said "isn't this the job of the police?" - Uh, yeah, isn't it? It's not this guys fault the police don't live up to expectations anymore though.

    To those who've said "too much trouble" (and the cops in user shambelina's town) - you are lazy, indulgent commercialized drones and you are exactly *why* this kind of theft is profitable to the ones who do it. If EVERYone were this persistent, it wouldn't be as easy or profitable.

    In short, amusing story, good food for thought. Congratz on getting your phone back. I do have to wonder about those who would use those resources for less-than-honorable uses though. Maybe we should *all* get this savvy, just to cover our butts?

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  129. Brilliant!!! Pinche would have still got a beat down though ;) Glad you got your phone back!

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  130. You are like a badass Magnum PI!

    Badass.!

    I promise never to steal your iPhone.

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  131. You have to admit in the end it probably was a spot of fun catching this idiot.

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  132. Nicely done! Impressive sleuthing.

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  133. Good sir, you have won at life.

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  134. Wow, that's so awesome, congrats, score one for the good guys!!

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  135. Twas a magnificent story! One, if permitted, that I personally adapt into a short film!

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  136. Oh SLodi, why are you so full of Fail?
    I grew up 20 minutes away, nice to see things haven't changed
    much.

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  137. Just came across this randomly. It's now on my Facebook wall. Excellent detective work! =]

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  138. دمتون گرم بابا
    داشتم با خودم میگفتم فقط یه ایرونی اینجوری دنبال مالش میره !

    ps:کارهای استودیوتون هم عالی هستن

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  139. This post made my day and it's worth the "reunited photo" a standing ovation. Love the love and the never-give-up lesson learned.

    Way to go! Congrats

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  140. amazing & scary all at the same time!!! lol glad you were reunited with your iPhone!!! :)

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  141. Congratulatoins..
    you should become People's Govt. Without Law Enforcement. only Threats yay to Google.. WE OWN US. ;D

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  142. GOod for you!!!! That'll teach 'em!! Um...If I ever loose my iphone...will u lend a hand?! :P

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  143. I love detective work like this.

    Glad to see you have your phone back.

    Also dugg this on digg.

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  144. cabrón is probably a more appropriate name. if i recall correctly, pínche isn't really a noun.

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  145. Nice job and all with the investigating. But all that could have been avoided. During the "Face Off" you should have asked to use his phone to call yours. It was likely still on. Since he was using it within 5 minutes. Now you know.

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  146. BAH, all that for an iphone??? I would've done more then that for a BlackBerry! Go RIM!!!

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  147. I had the same thing (mostly) happen to me a year ago, and the thief made calls on my cell, too!

    http://blog.amhill.net/2008/12/02/in-which-i-go-sleuthing-pt-1/

    The thief was my newspaper delivery person, and my phone had fallen out of my pocket while I was getting into ny car. She made so many calls it gave me nearly $20.00 in overages.

    I caught her similarly how you did -- call the ppl she called, google the numbers, look for social clusters. Eventuallly I got her manager and she got the phone back for me.

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  148. I think the door to his apartment may have come off its hinges had this happened to me. Good going!

    My wife's purse was stolen recently and she "luckily" had not left her iPhone in there. Oh well...:)

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  149. My purse, passport, wallet, digital camera and personal items were stolen from the trunk of a rental car in France while we were at a beach. The police only file a report. It is so frustrating all the hoops you have to jump through to CYA and resume your life. It is so violating. I would have loved to stalk them and haunt their lives so they learn what it is like to feel victimized... until they finally have a come to Jesus moment and do the right thing. If criminals were outcast because of their actions I believe it would decrease instead of constantly increase.

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  150. I swear the tech companies are behind all the theft problems... they make all these new products, charge an arm and a leg for them... what do you think people will do for the latest and greatest? I understand supply and demand, but at the rate they're pumping these new gadgets out at, there is an abundance of supply to easily combat the demand, lower the price and hopefully in turn lower the crime and the desire of and for these gadgets...

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  151. Guess what kids...this story is NOT REAL but is simply a marketing ploy to demonstrate the 'value' of buying the Mobile Me plan.

    Well done Apple and whatever marketing firm came up with this. I am really impressed. And it looks like you may have gotten a few takers, after the first few planted comments.

    This campaign is waay more subtle than the thinly veiled fake 'proposal' that was distributed on You Tube by the Disney Corp to promote their parks.

    Gosh, you're good. Kool Aid, anyone....

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  152. For everyone commenting about "What about Law Enforcement?? Why didnt you have them take care of this issue".

    Trust me, the police here in California, specifically in Los Angeles, they can give a rats-ass if your phone was stolen. They will tell you exactly what they told Sam, "If nobody is in danger, we cannot do anything". I wish they would do something about it, but reality is, they wont. Considering that Los Angeles have way bigger worries like Homocide, Kidnapping, etc, they will not pay attention if they just "steal" your bike, phone, car, etc. All they will do is write you an incident report and let you live your life.

    Luckily, i have installed iLocalis on my gf and my phone. iLocalis is the same exact service as MobileMe but WAAYYY Cheaper ($20/year), has WAAY MORE features and only available to Jailbroken iPhones. With iLocalis, you can make your stolen iPhone remotely call another desired phone number. You can record within a certain time frame that you specify, you can activate it so when they change the sim card, it will automatically send the new number from the sim to a specified phone number through text. The greatest thing about iLocalis is; Normally a theif will turn off your phone once its in his possession, well as soon as iLocalis daemon (the root software of iLocalis which cannot be uninstalled) is aware that the phone is off, it will automatically turn your phone back on without their knowledge.

    If you like MobileMe and have a Jailbroken iPHone, I would def recommend checking out iLocalis.

    o btw, congrats on recovering you iPhone. I would be so lost w/o my iPhone.

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  153. Correction: I didnt install iLocalis on my gf, i meant my gf's iphone lol

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  154. Awesome story! LMAO! Thanks, it really made my day!

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  155. HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHA man that is awesome! You should be a detective

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  156. Best thing I'm going to read today- nice one!

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  157. I would've done just the same, congrats on the reunite with your phone!

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  158. So entertaining and useful adventure I ought to spread it through Twitter and FB - thanks Sam.

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  159. Amazing story, rewteeted on my page twitter.com/sumanjeetb

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  160. Excellent story - brilliant tenacity and the best result!

    I worked in Law Enforcement in Europe for a few years and trust me, no-one would fill out a form on a lost or even stolen phone let alone track it down. You did the right thing.

    Retweeting on @jumblerant and blogging about it on my blog, http://jumblerant.blogspot.com/

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  161. Excellent dude !!!!! Put it on my facebook wall :)

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  162. Amazing!!!
    I love using the internet for home-made-espionage!

    The only problem is that any thief that reads this will be sure to restore the next iPhone they steal...

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  163. Please be aware that this entire story is utter bullshit, quite obviously made up. The part about the police just tied it for me, plus all this info is not as readily available as he makes out. Some one thinks we are all stupid.

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  164. You are sending a check to a thief!? Are you nuts? Send his name and address to the police. File a complaint so his name is in the system for the next time he gets caught.

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  165. I had my iphone stolen right out of my hands last yr on thanksgiving walking across the street with my 2 kids. Bought a new one, and a yr later it slipped off my lap getting out of the car. I went back for it immediately when I realized it and the people who were pumping gas swore they didnt see it. I knew they had it, but they took it and there was nothing I could do about it. I didn't have mobile me. It's been 2 months and I'm still suffering without my iphone. :( Congratulations on getting urs back. Had I had the mobile me I would have done the same thing you would have. And you were nice I would have opened a can of whoop ass on the dude and his wife.... yes, using the tones and anger Latinas possess. lol! Great story

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  166. iPhones are the BEST! Thank you for posting!

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  167. I personally would have been more stealthy about it and I'd only have totally intimidated him in the end. But nice story anyway.
    Looking forward to the update :D

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  168. ALL LIES! This guy is stupid!

    tothecurb - yes latins are like that, duh!

    Most of you seem to be dumb enough not to see that this guy made up the story and or was to stupid to get his phone back the first day it was taken.

    If you tell the poilce you need to retreave stolen property they will help you. That or tell them you are going alone SOME WILL SHOW UP!

    Please feel to email more info Mr. Sam!

    bigworm01@aol.com

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  169. Awesome story!! Great stuff!! I'm chaining my iPhone down. Either that or get a MobileMe account. Thanks for sharing!

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  170. Thank you for posting this amazing story. I just hate it when people steal and get away with it. I'm glad you got it back.

    Cheers

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  172. lol you are almost worse than my wife! If provoked she can turn super stalker in an instant and will utilize all of the internets plethra of stalking tools.One of her favs is PublicData.com.

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