Repair Duo Who Scammed Apple For $3M In iPhones Face A Lengthy Prison Sentence

Several iPhone X models (renders) behind jail bars.
You've likely heard the phrase, 'If you can't do the time, don't do the crime', which dates back to at least the 1970s and has been repeated countless times since, even in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. A couple of 33-year-old Chinese nationals—Haotian Sun of Baltimore, Maryland and Pengfei of Germantown, Maryland—should have heeded the advice. They didn't, and as a result, they each face up to 20 years in prison for scamming Apple out of millions of dollars in iPhone devices.

The duo were busted for carrying out what the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia labeled a "sophisticated scheme to defraud Apple" by sending in counterfeit iPhone devices for repair, and having Apple exchange them with genuine iPhones. They managed to carry out the fraud for over two years—from May 2017 to September 2019—before being caught.

"Sun and Xue received shipments of inauthentic iPhones from Hong Kong at UPS mailboxes throughout the D.C. Metropolitan area. They then submitted the fake iPhones, with spoofed serial numbers and/or IMEI numbers, to Apple retail stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers, including the Apple Store in Georgetown," a press release issued by the US Attorney's Office stated.

The US Attorney's Office said the US Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations collected evidence showing that the scammers submitted more than 5,000 fake iPhone devices to Apple, causing a loss of more than $3 million. Evidence also purportedly showed that the repair duo used different aliases throughout the course of the scheme, presumably to avoid being caught.

It didn't work in the long run, and the two were arrested on December 5, 2019. More recently, a federal jury in US District Court in the District of Columbia found both guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud.

While the maximum sentence that can be imposed is 20 years behind bars, we suspect the actual sentence will be shorter. However, we'd be surprised if they didn't spend at least several years behind bars before being let out, whether on parole or at the conclusion of their prison term, whatever that might be. They'll find out when they are sentenced on June 21, 2024.