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3 Arrested at Cerritos Apple Store in iPhone 'Gaming' Scam

The Cerritos Apple store was recently the scene of this nationwide crime trend, which has already resulted in millions of dollars in losses to wireless service providers AT&T and Verizon.

Three men were arrested at the Apple store in Monday in connection with an iPhone "gaming" scam -- a nationwide crime trend in which individuals are purchasing several iPhones at a discounted cost with no intent to fulfill the 2-year service contract, leaving wireless service providers with millions in monetary losses, according to the . 

"There's a trend happening where suspects are recruiting people -- often local transients -- and taking them to the Apple store in Cerritos and having them purchase as many iPhones as they can," said Cerritos sheriff's Det. Aaron King. 

The iPhones, which are purchased from Apple by AT&T and Verizon for $600, are sold to consumers at a discounted price of $200 with a 2-year service agreement. The service providers eventually profit from this agreement over the span of the contract. But when it comes to the "gaming" scam, these contracts are never fulfilled and instead the iPhones are often reprogrammed and resold, leaving wireless service providers with an immediate $400 loss in addition to a broken contract and unpaid wireless bills, the detective said.

"These individuals are being recruited to buy the iPhones for $200, while sacrificing their credit to get the phones, in return for a cash payment," King said. 

A series of the "gaming" scam was unveiled in Cerritos over Memorial Day weekend when the Cerritos deputies received a call at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday from a man who claimed he was the victim of a failed business transaction at the Cerritos Apple store, according King. 

Domingo Rios, 35, of Long Beach, told deputies that he had agreed to purchase five AT&T contracted iPhones for a man -- later identified as Gerald Blockmon, 21, of Venice -- in return for $150 cash, but he was not properly paid. 

On Memorial Day, Rios again contacted the Cerritos Station stating that Blockmon was back at the Apple store conducting a similar transaction with another recruited purchaser, later identified as Walter Staten, 63, of Compton. 

Responding deputies arrested Blockmon, Rios and Staten about 3:45 p.m. Monday for conspiracy to commit grand theft and commercial burglary, according to King. At the time of the arrest, Staten was also found with heroin in his pocket, the detective added.

Apple store employees say Blockmon -- considered the "ringleader" of this local scam -- is in the Los Cerritos Center location almost daily, King said. It is unclear how many other similar transactions he may have been involved in.

A representative from Verizon told King they intend to move forward in the case against Blockmon and Staten, who was referred to as a "credit mule."

"They're not only putting their credit on the line, they're also defrauding the service providers, who are suffering huge losses," King said.

AT&T and Verizon representatives say the "gaming" scam is a growing problem that has already resulted in millions of losses to the businesses.

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rodrigo August 16, 2012 at 01:50 AM
I played in the JC all star football game with blockmon and he was a talent. He had scholarship offers to play at a few schools, sad to see this idiot screw it up all for a little cash.
MarieSam Sanchez August 16, 2012 at 08:54 AM
Rodrigo, did you two go to the same school together? If so, what school? Based on what you've shared, It sure is sad to hear that he let his athletic talent go to waste.
Danny Tiwaini September 11, 2012 at 07:48 PM
My family is a small business owner of 4 Verizon Wireless locations in Michigan. We see gaming on a daily basis and if we fail to catch the gaming up front we take a huge loss ($459.00) to be exact on any iPhone model. Typically if the customer is not porting in from another carrier, wants multiple phones and is not concerned with price, it is possible they are gaming. They usually have a spotter and are nervous when being asked multiple questions regarding getting new service. Its sad, because i see legit customers get turned away from other locations, because store managers are just too scared to sell iPhones on new activations, due to negative churn, and store profit loss. The only way to prevent things like this from happening would be to lower the outright price of the device, for example the iPhone 4s retails for 659.00, if the retail price were dropped to 299.99, there would be less incentive for a scammer to commit fraud and that small of a margin. I highly doubt that will ever happen though, until then we will simply have to stay on our toes and hope the carriers figure out a way to help prevent these types of scams from happening. Danny T
Johnny doe March 20, 2013 at 02:40 AM
There is not a way for a reseller to combat this without "profiling" or passing potentially unfair judgement on their customers. The onus is the carriers. They are the ones ultimately making the credit decisions and approving the activations (often with only $100 deposits required per line). Any action from the reseller to prevent the sale opens them up to much legal trouble, I would think?

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