Unlucky Las Vegas man besieged by lost-phone seekers

GPS-run-amok case mirrors one that led New Orleans woman to sue Sprint

Wayne Dobson has had all he can take of Sprint customers showing up at his Las Vegas home to demand that he hand over the cell phone of theirs that they are mistakenly certain Dobson possesses because a GPS-based tracking application has led them to his front door. Police corroborate Dobson's professions that he is no phone thief, in part because they, too, have mistakenly responded to the man's address.    

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And Dobson is not the only one having been so hounded: Sprint has known of the problem since at least April 2011 and has been sued over its consequences by a New Orleans woman.

From a story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

In the past two years the 59-year-old retiree (Dobson) has been pestered by people showing up at all hours of the day and night at his house, demanding their phones. They've yelled, shown him evidence, called the police - sworn that their phone is in his house.

"It's very difficult to say, 'I don't have your phone,' in any other way other than, 'I don't have your phone,' " Dobson said.

The confrontations Dobson describes - particularly the one with police - are more than enough to elevate the matter from annoying to downright dangerous. However, neither Sprint personnel contacted by Dobson nor experts contacted by the Las Vegas newspaper have had much to offer by way of an explanation, never mind a solution.

(These guys said the iPhone would flop)

A Sprint spokesperson told the newspaper via email: "We will research the issue thoroughly and try to get to the bottom of what is going on and if it has anything to do with our company."

A bit of searching on my part found news accounts about the remarkably similar story told by a New Orleans woman in early 2011. From a report on the website of television station WDSU:

"It is humiliating," said Diana Pierre-Louis. "It is an attack on our dignity, because you see my father, you see me, and you think I have your phone at my house."

It's an unusual accusation that Pierre-Louis said keeps happening.

"According to their GPS tracking system, it's detecting that their phone is here at my house, and I don't have their phone," she said. "And every weekend, they constantly come."

Pierre-Louis wound up suing Sprint, according to this story by Courthouse News Service. I've reached out to her attorney to see what has come of that case. it wouldn't surprise me if lawyers are joining the Sprint customers lining up to ring Dobson's doorbell.

(Update, Jan. 15: No word from the New Orleans attorney and, frankly, I am not expecting any. Because the story appears to have dropped off the media radar, my guess would be that there was some kind of settlement that included an agreement on the part of the complainant to remain mum. That's what apparently happened in the infamous case involving Apple's tracking of a missing iPhone prototype to the home of a San Francisco man. My conversation with that man's attorney was comically futile.)

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