SFPD: We’re Investigating Our Missing iPhone 5 Investigation

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Face it, the only reason we’re covering this missing Apple iPhone 5 story is because everyone else is covering it. It’s like the snake swallowing its tail, kind of like the latest wrinkle in this whole sleuthing mystery: The San Francisco Police Department will investigate—wait for it—the San Francisco Police Department, for the manner in which it reportedly aided Apple employees while Cupertino went a-huntin’—perhaps illicitly—for the supposedly AWOL next-gen iPhone.

So says the San Francisco Examiner, anyway, which quoted an SFPD spokesperson as admitting the department has launched an “internal investigation” into the incident.

(MORE: Report: They’ve Started Building the iPhone 5)

If you’re just bumping into this story, the brouhaha’s over a so-called iPhone 5 (everyone realizes we don’t even know that’s what Apple plans to call it, right?) belonging to an apparently careless Apple employee who lost it at a San Francisco Mission District tequila bar in July. How do you lose a super-secret unannounced prototype? I know. You’d think a company as sophisticated as Apple would have security tech to thwart this sort of employee incautiousness. You know: shock collars, invisible fences, that sort of thing.

But no, we’re looking at another missing iPhone, Apple in a tizzy, the media in a frenzy and in walks the SFPD to reportedly “help” Apple investigate the missing future mobile. According to the San Francisco police, four of its officers paired up (in plain clothes) with two Apple employees in late July to search a house in Bernal Heights based on tracking info—presumably via the device’s location services—that pointed the way. Except no phone was found, and now we’re hearing allegations the Apple employees deceptively posed as police officers and that the SFPD helped them do so, probably in violation of some law or other.

The man who lived at the home, 22-year-old Sergio Calderón, told SF Weekly that all six of the people who visited his home in July were wearing badges, that none of them admitted to being Apple employees and that one offered him a bribe to turn over the phone: $300 and no charges pressed. Calderón claims he never had such a phone. He also claims the men threatened his family with immigration questions. “One of the officers is like, ‘Is everyone in this house an American citizen?’ They said we were all going to get into trouble,” said Calderón, according to SF Weekly.

Insert clichéd “And the plot thickens…” tie-off here.

MORE: The Case of the Missing iPhone 5 Gets Even Sketchier

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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