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Cops break open front door and seize computers in investigation of lost iPhone prototype

Jason Chen with prototype iPhone. Credit: Gizmodo

It looks like the police are taking this pretty seriously.

Armed with a search warrant, members of California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team broke into a private home Friday night and seized computers and other electronic equipment, according to a report posted Monday on Gizmodo.

The home belonged to Jason Chen, the Gizmodo editor who published photographs and videos of a top secret prototype iPhone left at a bar by a young Apple engineer. Gizmodo has admitted paying $5,000 for the device, which it turned over on request to Apple (AAPL), but only after cracking it open and publishing details about its parts and specifications.

It’s not clear at this time whether Apple or the local district attorney initiated the investigation. Apple has not replied to a request for clarification.

The search warrant, signed by a San Mateo County Superior Court judge, said the equipment seized may have been used to commit a felony.

”My wife and I drove to dinner and got back at about 9:45,” begins Chen’s description of the event. “When I got home I noticed that the garage door was half open, and when I tried to open it, officers came out and said they had a warrant to search my house and any vehicles on the property ‘in my control.’ Then they made me place my hands behind my head and searched me to make sure I had no weapons or sharp objects on me.”

Photocopies of the warrant and a list of the equipment seized (including one box of business cards for “suspect chen”) are available here. Chen’s full statement below the fold.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]