Surveillance video shows a group of men take the phones moments before the items were to be shipped from West County Center, Des Peres Police Detective Trent Koppel said.
“Somebody was doing their homework. They were watching. They were studying the time frames when the trucks were loading and unloading, and when the workers were going inside and out,” Koppel said.
The incident happened in late February on a weekday morning.
A man on the surveillance video can be seen waiting in the corner. Police said he was taking smoke breaks and likely acting as a watch for the other suspects.
The video shows a white van pull up next to the delivery truck. When the coast was clear, two or three bins containing the phones were loaded into the van. Police said the van did not have license plates.
Koppel said in all, the heist involved 76 iPhone 6s and 7s.
“In the 15 years here, I have never seen anything—a phone theft ring—of that magnitude,” she said. “We’re not talking about a crime of opportunity. We’re talking about a coordinated effort.”’
Koppel said it is likely there will be iPhone owners without their devices.
“Was there personal information on those phones? Absolutely. They’ve been wiped, of course. And luckily, for us, we’ve had a great relationship with Apple, and they’ve done what they can to assist with the investigation,” she said.
She said it is possible the phones might be sold on the black market. But a motive is unclear at this point, she said.
“That’s just the biggest concern for us when you talk about that large [number] of phones. We’re not sure exactly what their intentions are. Could it be something on a greater, larger scale? Absolutely,” she said.
Police hope someone recognizes the white van or anyone seen in the videos.
In the meantime, they caution the public to be wary of their surroundings.
“If you’re a regular course of business you see somebody that doesn’t quite fit the ordinary behavior of somebody that should be in that area, by all means, give us a call,” Koppel said. “Let us know.”
Des Peres police are working with other municipalities on the case. Koppel said there are documented cases of mass iPhone thefts in other cities.
Anyone with information should contact the Des Peres Department of Public Safety at 314-835-6200.