Gardaí believe they have smashed a sophisticated counterfeit iPhone ring responsible for duping unsuspecting customers out of hundreds of euro.
Officers mounted a painstaking undercover operation targeting the sale of fake iPhone 5 devices over the internet and via popular classified site, donedeal.ie
Investigators, led by a team of officers from Granard Garda Station arrested a man in his early 20s last week who detectives believe was the mastermind behind the operation.
One of his alleged victims was a Donegal man who travelled to north Longford to purchase the phone.
On foot of a number of complaints, Granard Gardaí traced the contact number used and later found it displayed in several advertisements.
Officers were then able to stage a planned meeting with their chief suspect by posing as customers before subsequently arresting him at a car park in Ballinasloe. During the arrest, gardaí retrieved a counterfeit iPhone and a series of other documentation.
The suspect, who was brought to Granard for questioning and later released without charge, has links to the Galway area.
Garda sources believe the man is part of gang that have sold dozens of bogus phones across the greater midlands region.
The fake appliances are commonly advertised as ‘unwanted presents’ and offered for sale for €300, considerably less than the normal retail price.
Preliminary investigations have found interested buyers are then directed to meet at car parks behind fast food premises or at shopping centres where the phone is exchanged for cash only purposes.
In some instances reported to gardaí, the new owners find out within seconds of the transaction the phones are cheap imitations, are unable to work and break easily when removed from their packaging.
With the vendor nowhere to be seen and no contact details at hand, the buyer suddenly finds themselves at a significant financial loss, sometimes as high as €300.
A Garda spokesman this week urged members of the public to exercise extreme caution when attempting to purchase high value items in such circumstances.
“If the offer appears to be too good to be true, then it probably is,” said the spokesman. “Most of those involved in the sale of these fake phones are from well established criminal families and groups operating across the midlands.”