A Russian citizen reportedly tried to smuggle 92 iPhones from the US to Russia using fraudulent documents. However, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) team foiled the attempt and seized all the smartphones at the Newark International Airport.
Yulia Radochinskaya, who claimed to be a flight attended, landed at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on a pretext of being in the country to buy a laptop and a mobile phone. The Russian citizen said that she worked for an airline and wanted to stay in the country for three days. However, she showed up later that day at the Newark International Airport in New Jersey with 92 iPhones.
When the CBP team interrogated her, she said that she had all the required documents for the devices in her carry-on bags, worth nearly $100,000. She missed her flight due to the additional CBP procedure. So, she booked the next flight out of the airport. CBP later ran her export papers through a law enforcement database, only to find them fraudulent. They also found via LinkedIn that she worked for a now-defunct Russian airline.
She was arrested the next day at the Newark International Airport, and the iPhones were seized. Yulia claimed that after she cleared the customs at the JFK Airport, she met someone named Dima, who dumped the iPhones into her luggage. Yulia then proceeded to New Jersey to board her flight back to Russia. It is unclear as to how Dima got hold of so many phones, but they were likely stolen.
Apparently, thousands of such stolen iPhones are smuggled to other countries where they can be unlocked and used. A phone stolen in the US can’t be used in the US, because those devices are put on a blacklist by service providers. They are systematically bricked once they appear on any network in the country. However, the information isn’t shared with carriers in other countries. Hence, they can be used there without any problem.
Various smartphones stolen in the US have been found in countries like Australia, China, Dubai, Iran, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, the UAE, and Vietnam. Not all smuggled iPhones are stolen, though. A lot of countries like India impose hefty duties on imported smartphones, and due to already steep prices of iPhones, those devices become even dearer. Hence, black market iPhones are relatively cheaper to own.