Representatives of Apple allegedly visited and sought persmission to search the Silicon Valley address of a college-age man who found the next-generation iPhone prototype at a bar, reported tonight.

The Apple employees knocked on the door of the finder’s home last week. A roommate answered the door, but wouldn’t let them in. That was confirmation that the lost iPhone was pretty important to Apple.

A 27-year-old Apple engineer left the phone by mistake at a bar in Redwood City, Calif. Another bar patron found it and tried to find its owner, reported. It happened to be a prototype of a new iPhone model that isn’t going to be released for a while. The finder failed to find the owner and eventually sold it to the tech blog Gizmodo for $5,000. Gizmodo published details about the phone and then returned it to Apple after receiving a letter from Apple’s general counsel asking it be returned.

Then local Bay Area authorities started a criminal investigation, seizing computers from the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen. Gawker Media, owner of Gizmodo, is seeking protection for Chen under the state’s journalist shield law, so it isn’t entirely clear if the police will be able to use anything from the seized computers. The San Jose Business Journal reported that police have identified and interviewed the man who took the phone from the bar.

Apparently, the finder’s roommates and neighbors knew all about the phone. The source who had direct knowledge of the Gizmodo transaction said that the finder tried to find the owner of the device. After that, the finder turned to the press

“The idea wasn’t to find out who was going to pay the most, it was, Who’s going to confirm this?” the source said to

The source also said that the $5,000 payment wasn’t strictly a “sale.” Rather, it was an agreement with Gizmodo for an exclusive story. Gizmodo was to help the finder return the phone to its rightful owner, or give it back.

[photo credit: Gizmodo]

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