Tracking device leads police to suspected iPhone thieves

Modern technology may have outsmarted two alleged robbers when the iPhone they are accused of stealing had a tracking device that led to their arrests.

The two men in their early 20s pleaded not guilty Tuesday to robbing a 41-year-old man of his laptop and iPhone after a scuffle near the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Oak Street around 10 a.m. Friday, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Jerome Satele, 21, and Maifala Tusi, 23, were arrested later that day because the victim told police at the scene that his phone had a MobileMe application that displays its approximate location on a map from any computer. The victim logged on to a witness’ computer and the map indicated the iPhone was located near an intersection in the Bayview, where police found a parked Lexus that fit the description of the getaway car.

“It’s normally just an application for when you lose your phone,” DA spokesman Brian Buckelew said.

A stakeout and pursuit of the Lexus led to the arrest of Satele and Tusi, and the victim later identified the robbers.

The case comes on the heels of three iPhone robberies that happened within minutes of each other on March 21 when a couple of teenagers brandished a gun in the middle of the day and stole several iPhones. Police have said these suspects are likely not connected to last month’s robberies.

To help combat the rampant thefts, the San Francisco Police Department has reached out to Apple Inc. for ideas on how to prevent its products from being stolen, but it has not yet reached any solutions.

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