HENNEPIN COUNTY, Minn. (FOX 9) - Zhongshuang "Brandon" Su, dubbed "iPhone Man" as law enforcement and prosecutors cracked down on a sprawling cell phone theft ring often targeting victims in and around popular Minneapolis bar districts, has been sentenced to 120 days in the Hennepin County workhouse.
According to the allegations, thieves would steal phones through deception and violence, hack into financial apps to drain cash, and then make quick money selling the devices.
Su, who was once thought to be the ringleader of the conspiracy, would then turn them around, and move the phones overseas as part of his own business enterprise.
"I cannot ignore the fact that you are a major player in this scheme," Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill told Su at his sentencing hearing Thursday. "Most of the people who are pleading guilty in front of me in this case are going to prison."
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office first charged a dozen defendants with racketeering in the conspiracy involving upwards of 40 victims – some violently injured – and losses topping $200,000.
"I want to offer the biggest apologies to everybody who was hurt and involved in the case," Su said Thursday. "I feel so sorry about the decisions I made on my business over the years."
Su, 33, a Chinese national, insists he had no idea where the phones and other electronics were coming from, acknowledging he should have asked more questions when dozens came to him in a short period of time. He claims that he was instead focused on making money in what he called a lucrative enterprise abroad.
Ultimately, prosecutors dropped the racketeering count against him, and allowed him to plead guilty to charges of receiving stolen property with 120 days in the workhouse.
"I would like to take full responsibility of the bad decisions I made during this case," Su said Thursday.
In addition to 120 days in the workhouse, Su must complete what amounts to 120 days of community service.
Judge Cahill agreed Su was not the mastermind, but found he was still a "major player" in the conspiracy.
"I think it is because you were willfully ignorant, you were ignoring red flags that would have made it very clear," Cahill said. "I think you were willfully ignorant. Plugging your ears, so to speak."
Sources close to the case have told FOX 9 that Su’s felony conviction, as well as his overall involvement in the racketeering conspiracy, leaves him exposed to removal from this country – meaning deportation back to China at some point.
There was no confirmation of that following the sentencing, though Su addressed the matter in court.
"I want to say, I loved to live in the United States," Su said while reading from prepared remarks. "I have been here for almost 15 years, and I hope I can keep staying here. I am so sorry to do something bad to hurt the community. I hope in the future I can make it back. And I want to do something really good to serve the community."
Judge Cahill ordered Su to begin serving his workhouse time on Nov. 16.
Six other co-conspirators, originally charged with racketeering in the alleged scheme, have now been sentenced for the roles.