By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
May 15, 2010

How the cops cracked the case of the missing fourth-generation prototype, step by step

Here’s what we know now that we didn’t know before the court released a San Mateo detective’s 10-page sworn statement of facts:

  • When Gizmodo posted photos and videos of Apple’s (AAPL) top-secret iPhone prototype, Steve Jobs got right on the horn to Gizmodo’s editor, Brian Lam, and read him the riot act. He wanted the thing back, but was mostly worried what Gizmodo’s story would do to sales of the iPhone 3GS.
  • Lam comes back with a smarmy “off the record” e-mail. He won’t return the dingus without a story he can run with — like a letter from Apple legal saying it’s the real deal. Then he makes a pitch for better access: “The thing is, Apple PR has been cold to us lately… I know you like walt [Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal] and pogue [David Pogue of the New York Times], and like working with them, but I think Gizmodo has more in common with old Apple than those guys do.”

  • Apple knew before the sun went down that it was Brian Hogan who snatched the iPhone and fenced it to Gizmodo. One of his roommates, Katherine Martinson, ratted him out to save her own skin. She told the cops Hogan had plugged the thing into her computer without her okay and she thought maybe it would tie her to the deal.
  • Hogan told Martinson he was going to get ten grand for the gizmo. He showed her fifty $100s stuffed in a camera box. What happened to the rest of the Franklins she doesn’t know. “Sucks for him,” Hogan told Martinson when she warned that selling the thing would screw the Apple engineer who lost it. “He lost his phone. Shouldn’t have lost his phone.”
  • Two days later Martinson called the cops and told them to get a patrol car to her house toot sweet. Hogan and his pal Tom Warner knew the fuzz were on to them and were scrambling to stash evidence.
  • Hogan caved as soon as the cops got there. Tom Warner had the goods — a computer, a thumb drive, a camera flash card and a couple stickers — and was hiding them somewhere. While the cops were listening, Warner called Hogan’s galpal and told her he had dropped the PC off at a church.
  • Warner played tough when the cops caught up to him. He owned up to moving the computer, but claimed he didn’t know where the rest of the stuff had gone to.
  • It turned out Warner had a sheet — two outstanding misdemeanors. As soon as he was cuffed he started singing. He’d tossed the thumb drive and flash card into a bush. The stickers might have fallen out of his wallet when he gassed up his car.
  • The cops grabbed it all: the computer (a Windows HP) at the church, the thumb drive and flash card underneath the bush, the stickers (that ID the prototype) in the parking lot of a Chevron station in Redwood City.
  • Police detective Matthew Broad, who got the case, turns out to be a former Secret Service agent with special training in Internet fraud, access device fraud and organized crime. He’s a stickler for getting volatile data before it vanishes. Next on his list: Gizmodo editor Jason Chen — the guy who had the hot prototype (and broke it three different ways putting it back together). Broad’s asking for a search warrant, and he gets it. Chen’s not home, so he breaks open the door, press shield laws be damned.

You can read the full statement here, courtesy of CNET‘s Declan McCullagh and Greg Sandoval.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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