Fueling major cities Apple theft wave.
The city’s lucrative black market for stolen iPhones and iPads has led to an intricate scheme involving everyone from teen thieves in East Harlem to crackerjack Internet decoders to resellers in the Mideast.
Rogue techies put the gadgets through a process called jailbreaking or unlocking.
This clears the iPhones for resale and use on any national or international carrier.
Without the techie clearing the phone, customers would be forced to sign on to costly two-year contracts with AT&T or Verizon or shell out at least $650 for the cheapest, contract-free iPhone. The stolen revamped phones are sold for about $300, while the iPads go for even more on the black market, sources said.
“That’s what’s so attractive — the black-market resale value,” a source said. “It’s quick money.”
After the “cleanup,” devices are funneled into bodegas throughout the city, sold over the Internet or shipped overseas, sources said. The last scenario requires another member of the team, who ensures that the products clear customs.
“The phones are primarily being shipped overseas to the Middle East,” said one police source. “That’s the hot region right now.”
The number of stolen Apple devices in the city has already surpassed last year’s total by more than 50 percent, apparently to meet the illicit demand — and there are still four more months left in the year, according to NYPD records obtained by The Post.
“It’s a tight network” of crooks, said one police source who recently ran three undercover stings in hardscrabble parts of Brooklyn. “The bodegas know the perps in the neighborhood, so it’s really hard for us to infiltrate that criminal community.”
The city’s total grand larcenies — fueled by the iPhone and iPad thefts — have risen to more than 25,000 incidents in just the first eight months of this year, already a 10 percent increase compared with 22,687 by this point in 2011, police records show.
Apple products account for nearly 17 percent of all city grand larcenies so far this year, records show.
As of Aug. 15 of this year, 4,174 Apple devices have been reported stolen, up 55 percent from 2,696 the same period last year.
Up until two weeks ago, snatchers could get away with cleaning the devices themselves and selling them directly to customers.
But AT&T started tracking serial numbers of phones reported stolen and blocking them from being reactivated on the network.
“When they try to connect, they can’t,” said Zeke James, 25, a manager at an AT&T retailer on Broadway and West 86th Street.
Now, thieves resort to one of the city’s phone-repair shops — some that knowingly work on stolen phones and fail to report the crime to police.
At Link-Sys on West 42nd Street, a techie was quick to accept an offer to clean up as many as 50 iPhones and get them ready for resale.
“So you won’t report me?” an undercover reporter asked the man and his partner at their business.
“No, no, no. We don’t do that,” replied the techie.
“Bring them in,” his partner insisted.
The duo said they’d charge $35 for each stolen phone — and even offered a discount for bulk service.
Later, when contacted by the same reporter, the man said only, “I categorically deny that we do that.”