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Man convicted & sentenced for million-dollar fake iPhone return scheme

Apple iPhone 12

A Chinese national has been sentenced to 26 months in a US prison for his role in a scheme to defraud Apple out of more than $1 million with counterfeit iPhones.

Haiteng Wu, 32, immigrated to the U.S. in 2013 to study engineering. He received his Master's Degree in 2015 and secured lawful employment two years later. However, the Justice Department said that, at the same time, he embarked on a three-and-a-half year scheme to defraud Apple.

The scheme involved receiving shipments of counterfeit clones from Hong Kong that had spoofed IMEI and serial numbers corresponding to authentic Apple devices. Wu, together with other conspirators, would then return these inauthentic devices to Apple, claiming that they were legitimate devices still under warranty. The goal was to receive authentic iPhone devices as replacements.

Those authentic replacements models were then shipped back to conspirators overseas, including in Hong Kong.

Wu recruited others, including his wife Jiahong Cai, to take part in the scheme. In addition to the conspiracy itself, Wu also secured fake identification documents, opened multiple commercial mail receiving mailboxes, and arranged for members of the scheme to travel through the U.S.

In total, Wu acknowledged that he had defrauded Apple out of nearly $1 million, adding that he intended to continue the scheme. Wu and his conspirator were arrested in December 2019. He has been in custody since.

Wu pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in May 2020. On Tuesday, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan sentenced Wu to the 26 months he has already served in custody and ordered him to pay $987,000 in restitution, and and an identical amount in a money forfeiture judgement.

Like her husband, Cai also pleaded guilty to one county of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in May 2020.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.