Apple has spoken to local police about the incident and the investigation is believed to be headed by a computer crime task force led by the Santa Clara County district attorney's office, the source said. Apple's Cupertino headquarters is in Santa Clara County, about 40 miles south of San Francisco.
Editors at Gizmodo.com, part of Gawker Media's blog network, said in an article posted Monday that they paid $5,000 for what they believed to be a prototype of an impending iPhone 4G. The story said the phone was accidentally left at a bar in Redwood City, Calif., last month by an Apple software engineer and found by someone who contacted Gizmodo, which had previously indicated it was willing to pay significant sums for unreleased Apple products.
The purpose of an investigation is to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to file criminal charges. Spokesmen for Santa Clara County and San Mateo County -- home to the Redwood City bar -- declined to comment. Representatives for Apple and Gawker Media did not immediately respond to interview requests. Nick Denton, the chief executive of Gawker Media, wasn't immediately available for comment.
For more on this story, read Lost iPhone prototype spurs police probe on CNET News.