'Find my iPhone' helps nab prolific Coachella smartphone thief

Tech-savvy fans helped police recover 130 smartphones from one man.

Getty Images for Coachella

If you're thinking of stealing smartphones, the tech-centric Coachella festival is probably not the best place to do it. Savvy police teamed with equally savvy concert-goers to nab alleged smartphone thief Ronaldo De Jesus Henao with around 130 stolen smartphones. Police first discovered the rash of thefts at a specific tent by checking on Reddit, and were then aided by attendees that activated Apple's "Find my iPhone" feature.

With so many fans on Instagram and elsewhere, police kept their eyes on it. "I noticed some chatter on social media about phones disappearing on Reddit," Indio Police Sergeant Dan Marshall told Gizmodo. "One of the common threads was that they were all losing their phones at the Sahara tent."

Image credit: Indio Police Department

After police kept extra eyes on that area and failed to find a suspect, it was the fans that came through. "A bunch of people activated their 'find my phone' and pointed at, 'Hey, it's that guy, my phone, my dot, it's moving with that guy,' " Marshall told SFGate. The fans alerted security, who detained Henao, and the police arrested Henao, 36, for grand theft and possession of stolen property.

Henao had over 130 phones in his backpack, many of which have already been returned to their rightful owners, with the rest turned into Coachella's lost and found department. Marshall pointed out that cellphones are lost by the hundreds at the festival, but are usually turned in, so the brazen theft stood out. "The kids are just here to have a good time," he said. To help wannabe victims, the Indio Police Department has posted a memo on its Facebook page with tips like "place your wallet/phone in your front pocket instead of the back."