Federal agents raid smartphone repair shops

By Jeff Weinsier, Investigative Reporter, jweinsier@Local10.com
Published On: Apr 25 2013 11:29:38 PM EDT
Updated On: Apr 29 2013 11:33:45 AM EDT

Federal Agents with the Department of Homeland Security have seized between $250,000 and $300,000 in counterfeit Apple parts.

SOUTH FLORIDA -

Federal Agents with the Department of Homeland Security have raided 25 Smartphone repair shops in South Florida and have seized between $250,000 and $300,000 in counterfeit Apple parts.

"It's a wide investigation that is multi-state. We are looking at whole industry spectrum of repair shops that are using substandard products," said Gerard O'Neill, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Miami Field Office for Homeland Security.

O'Neill says it's a public safety issue and that is how Homeland Security is involved.

He says consumers have be hurt by overheating phones that were repaired using counterfeit parts.

"There are trademark and licensing violations as well," he added.

Apple says if a repair shop puts counterfeit parts in your phone it will void any warranty.

"Unless they are getting it from an Apple authorized manufacturer, they are most likely getting substandard parts which are counterfeit and illegal to possess," Said Agent O'Neill

Abel Abella's says his store was raided by agents who seized $5000 worth of parts.

"When they came in it almost looked like a drug raid," Said Abella.

Abella claims there were 20 ICE agents and two people from Apple in his small Bird Road store.

Abella says he began fixing Apple Products because everyone else was.

"We got the parts from a company in California. To this day that vendor is still selling parts," Said Abella.

Why did the come after me?” he added.

According to a Department of Homeland Security seizure form, the products he was using were counterfeit.

Abella said he didn't know what he was doing was illegal.

According to an Apple spokesman, only Apple authorized repair centers can use Apple parts with the Apple logo.

Apple is working with the government to shut down those who mislead consumers.

A person working at a store called Apple ER in Hallandale Beach, told an undercover Local 10 Producer he uses "Apple glass" for repairs even though he's not an authorized service provider.

Will stores like that be the next target for Homeland Security?

"The investigation is ongoing. The consumer has to be aware of who they get to fix their products, said O'Neill

For a list of authorized Apple service providers, click here.

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