The father-son duo in the Lanham shopping center parking lot offered what seemed like a deal. For just $250, passers-by could purchase a never-been-used, still-in-the-box iPhone 4S. Negotiate a little bit, and the price could drop to as low as $120.
Problem was the devices were not real. And when the men offered to sell one to undercover Prince George’s County police officers, they were charged with counterfeiting, theft and doing business without a license, court records show.
“They presented themselves well, like businessmen,” said Sgt. Aubrey Thompson of the Prince George’s police department’s Special Enforcement Division. “It fooled me.”
Thompson said officers were first tipped to the Parkers' alleged scheme about 3 p.m. Sept. 12, when personnel from the Target and Home Depot stores on Martin Luther King Jr. Highway called to complain that someone was selling iPhones in their shopping center’s parking lot. Undercover officers went out to investigate, and the father-son pair offered to sell one of them a phone for $250, Thompson said.
According to charging documents, the Parkers pitched the devices as “new in the box” and offered to lower the price to $120. Real iPhone 4S smartphones can sell for more than $500 without a mobile service contract. Thompson said the men told an undercover detective that the devices had been “going like hotcakes” and that they had only five left.
On the surface, the phones looked real. They had working camera and calendar applications and a semi-functional touch screen. But their displays were low-tech, and everything — touch screen included — moved much more slowly than they would on a real Apple iPhone.
“Twenty dollars worth of plastic and junk,” Thompson said of the knock-offs.
Thompson said police are investigating how the men got the devices and who manufactured them. He said that the Parkers offered evolving stories to detectives, telling them that they had bought the fakes in New York or in Philadelphia or from someone online. They also gave varying accounts of how many phones they had sold, ranging from seven to 15, Thompson said.
Thompson said it is unclear whether the devices could actually have been used as phones, though Apple would not offer service on them because they were fakes. He said he hopes the incident will highlight the dangers of believing too-good-to-be-true sales pitches from vendors on the street.
“You’re not getting a deal,” Thompson said. You’re being ripped off.”
Efforts to reach the Parkers were unsuccessful. No one answered the phone at a number listed for Daniel Parker, and a working phone number could not be located for Harold Parker. No attorney is listed for the men in court records.