‘iPhone man’ charged in phone theft ring appears in court; 3 co-defendants arrested
Four people charged with racketeering in an alleged cellphone theft ring that preyed on people leaving bars in downtown Minneapolis are appearing in court this week.
They’re accused of stealing dozens of phones — sometimes by force, other times by targeting drunk people — and then accessing financial apps to transfer funds into their bank accounts.
Prosecutors have traced at least 40 victims to the scheme, totaling $159,797 in stolen money, $32,086 in attempted theft and more than $85,000 in cryptocurrency. The value of the stolen devices is estimated at $25,267.
According to online court records, Zhongshuang “Brandon” Su, the defendant referred to as the “iPhone man,” appeared in Hennepin County court Wednesday for a motion hearing before Judge Thomas Conley. Prosecutors say Su was the dealer who ultimately sold the stolen phones and shipped them to Hong Kong.
The judge heard a motion from the prosecution, which argued Su should be disqualified from having a public defender because he managed to post $250,000 cash bail last month and “has not met his burden of showing financial eligibility.”
At his initial court appearance last month, another judge, Lyonel Norris, set Su’s bail at $150,000 with conditions or $250,000 without conditions. At that hearing, Norris also granted Su’s request for a public defender, despite it being “unclear” on whether he qualifies.
In his application for a public defender, Su put down his monthly income as $5,000. However, he said through an interpreter his income was variable because much of his income came from trading stocks and cryptocurrency. He estimated he lost between $20,000 and $30,000 on his investments in 2021.
After approving Su’s request for a public defender, Norris expressed confusion about Su’s actual finances.
“I can’t figure out how we get to $5,000 a month and are a full-time student at Metro State. So, I’m going to presume that there’s some error in translation,” Norris said.
On Sept. 23, just two days after that hearing, Su posted the first $150,000 of his bail, allowing him to be released with conditions. He posted the remaining $100,000 to clear the conditions for release the next week.
On Wednesday, documentation was filed in court showing Su is now being represented by defense attorney Michael J. Colich of the law firm Colich & Associates.
Three others charged in the scheme, 18-year-old Charlie Pryor Jr., 25-year-old Aaron Johnson and 23-year-old Alfonze Stuckey, were arrested on Tuesday and brought into the Hennepin County Jail, where they remain in custody.
Pryor, Johnson and Stuckey all appeared in court on Wednesday. Their bail has been set at $500,000; only Pryor has been given the option of a lower $100,000 bail with conditions.
Seven of the 12 people charged via warrant have yet to be taken into custody. All defendants are charged with one count each of racketeering.