Fearing “huge” losses in sales after pictures leaked of its fourth-generation iPhone, Apple Inc. convinced police to launch a felony investigation and Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs contacted the offending Web site himself to try and recover the gadget.


A California court unsealed a search warrant Friday in the case of the lost or stolen prototype 4G iPhone whose inner workings ended up on popular gadget site Gizmodo — weaving a bizarre tale of beer gardens, paranoid lawyers and e-mails to the Apple chieftain.


The incident began when Apple engineer Robert Gray Powell lost the prototype iPhone while at a restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was then either found or stolen by Brian Hogan, according to the search warrant.


But Hogan’s roommate, worried that the iPhone could be traced back to her after he plugged it into her computer, tipped off Apple that he had sold it to Gizmodo for $8,500.


Photos and details of the new device — ripped apart to reveal its inner workings — subsequently appeared on the website.

Jobs then contacted Gizmodo’s editor Brian Lam who replied in an e-mail that the device would be returned if Apple acknowledged that it was indeed the iPhone prototype, according to Gizmodo’s report.

Lam then gave Apple the address of Gizmodo employee Jason Chen, to arrange for the iPhone’s pickup. Police later seized some 22 items, including an iPhone iPad, 3 Macbooks, an Apple base station and other devices, from Chen’s residence.

San Mateo District Attorney Chris Feasel told Reuters the investigation was ongoing.