TAMPA — Keith Arsenault thought about ignoring the ring of his cell phone. He was in an emergency room with his 94-year-old father, who fractured his skull in a fall.
But Arsenault was intrigued by the 212 area code. He has friends in New York.
Instead, it was a New York City cop with an extraordinary story about the odyssey of a cell phone stolen six months earlier from Arsenault's job in Ybor City.
"I know lots of people who have had iPhones stolen," Arsenault said. "I don't know anyone who's ever gotten it back."
• • •
Arsenault manages the theater at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City.
During an intermission in May, he briefly walked out of the control room, leaving his iPhone behind, the door wide open.
When he returned, the phone was gone. He notified security but didn't call police. He blamed himself for not being more careful and bought another iPhone 3GS the next day.
There was a tracking device on the stolen iPhone, but it wasn't enabled, so he asked AT&T to clear all the personal information.
And then he forgot about it.
• • •
New York City police Officer Anthony Rosado was working undercover at the subway station at 110th Street and Lexington Avenue last week when he noticed a man fidgeting and pacing around the metro card machine.
As a train pulled in, the man slipped under the turnstile.
Rosado stopped him and found an iPhone with a charger and a Hillsborough Community College ID.
The fare he tried to jump was $2.50. An iPhone 3GS costs at least $99, and that's with a contract. Rosado was suspicious.
The officer asked if the iPhone worked.
The man said he hadn't bought any minutes.
Wrong answer. The officer knew iPhones don't work like that.
Rosado's suspicion deepened when he asked for the phone number. The guy didn't remember.
Rosado also noticed that all the numbers had been wiped from the phone.
Enough. Rosado walked the man to the nearest AT&T store, but an employee said Rosado needed a subpoena to find out who owned the iPhone.
Rosado eventually persuaded a supervisor to trace the serial number and call the number on file.
That's how they reached Arsenault at the emergency room.
"I can't believe this is happening,'' Arsenault told Rosado, "and I can't believe you're calling me now."
The former HCC student caught with the phone was charged with theft of service and criminal possession of stolen property.
• • •
These are not the best phones to steal, said Tampa police spokeswoman Andre Davis. An iPhone can be traced pretty easily.
There's an app for that.
In February, Tampa police helped a mother and daughter find two iPhones stolen from Busch Gardens. Using the phone's Global Positioning System application, they quickly tracked down the guy who stole them and recovered the phones.
Arsenault is arranging for a friend from Tampa to retrieve his iPhone during a visit to New York.
He plans to sell both phones so he can get a new iPhone 4. This time, he plans to turn on the tracking device.
Ileana Morales can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or firstname.lastname@example.org.