It’s usually pretty easy to replace your broken iPhone at Apple’s Genius Bar under your AppleCare plan, but a (criminally) enterprising brother duo found a way to game the system by trading in counterfeit devices for real ones. Unfortunately for them, They were caught in 2019 They attempted to trade 10,000 counterfeit Apple products over the course of eight years and were sentenced to federal prison this week. he San Diego Times reports.
San Diego residents Zhimin and Zhiting Liao (also known as Jimmy and Allen Liao) earned around $6.1 million worth of genuine Apple products, including iPhones and iPads, which they ended up exporting to buyers in foreign countries. The brothers received 41-month federal prison sentences. Their more than three years in prison are part of a plea deal that includes the forfeiture of five San Diego residences in which the brothers had interests, $250,000 they earned from the scheme and 200 iPhones involved in the scheme.
The brothers’ spouses also pleaded guilty to their involvement and were sentenced to three years of probation. Meanwhile, a third brother, Zhiwei Liao, will face sentencing later this month. Eight other accomplices also pleaded guilty.
The Liaos are not the only ones who have carried out a fake-for-real exchange scheme; a college student in Oregon was convicted in 2019 for scamming Apple Stores. The student brought fake iPhones that had warranty serial numbers printed on them to Apple stores. When the Genius Bar couldn’t rule out that the phones were real, he would get new replacements that he would send to China in exchange for money. (This particular trick might be harder to pull off today, now that Apple is serializing more internal components than ever.)
Liao’s plan, however, was much more ambitious. According to the San Diego Times, prosecutors said Zhimin Liao had personally visited 105 Apple stores in 22 states to try to exchange about 720 fake iPhones and iPads. The search for Zhiting Liao involved around 718 device trade-in attempts at at least 200 Apple stores in 18 US states and Canada.