The missing iPhone 5 saga of 2011 continues. 

The newest accusation is that Apple personnel, accompanied by San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers, may not have followed proper procedure when searching for the phone in a local man's home.

Background

CNET reported on August 31 that an Apple employee lost an iPhone prototype (possibly the upcoming iPhone 5) in a San Francisco tequila lounge called Cava 22. 

Apple then contacted the SFPD and scrambled to recover what it described as a priceless device. CNET learned that the phone may have been sold on Craigslist for $200.

Apple eventually traced the phone via GPS to a home in San Francisco.  Police officers and Apple investigators visited the home, were given permission to search the house, but found nothing.   

Back in 2010, gadget Web site Gizmodo bought an unreleased iPhone 4 prototype and wrote a widely read article about the device, which was reportedly lost by an Apple employee.

Controversies

SF Weekly  initially reported that an SFPD spokesperson said there was no record of the search, raising the possibility that Apple employees impersonated police officers.

Furthermore, the Apple employees reportedly threatened the people in the house regarding their immigration status.

Now, a new SF Weekly article asserts that three or four SFPD officials did assist Apple employees in the search of the house for the iPhone prototype. 

However, the article asserts that the Apple employees did not identify themselves as Apple personnel.  The man whose house they searched said he would not have let them conduct the search had he known that they were not police officers.

Marketing Ploy?

The consecutive lost iPhone prototypes (in 2010 and 2011), and the huge buzz and attention they generated, have led some to speculate that Apple intentionally does this to generate free publicity.   

Others speculate that the 2011 prototype misplacement was done to drive attention away from former CEO Steve Jobs' recent retirement.   

If actually true, Apple is going to some great lengths to execute these ploys and apparently brazen enough to involve the U.S. police and legal system.   

UPDATE: The SFPD released the following statement after receiving inquiries from multiple media outlets regarding its role in the iPhone prototype search.

After speaking with Apple representatives, we were given information which helped us determine what occurred.  It was discovered that Apple employees called Mission Police station directly, wanting assistance in tracking down a lost item. Apple had tracked the lost item to a house located in the 500 block of Anderson Street.  Because the address was in the Ingleside Police district Apple employees were referred to Officers in the Ingleside district.   Four SFPD Officers accompanied Apple employees to the Anderson street home.   The two Apple employees met with the resident and then went into the house to look for the lost item.   The Apple employees did not find the lost item and left the house.   

The Apple employees did not want to make an official report of the lost item.