ATLANTA -- Somebody grabbed Ben Dostal's iPhone Saturday, and Dostal hasn't seen it since. That's the bad news. The good news: A day later, Dostal used a computer application to track his phone to a green blip on a map.
"On the map it shows the location of the building, and then the phone itself as well," Dostal said, pointing to the green spot indicating a location in southwest Atlanta.
The building is Greenbriar Mall -- and Dostal says the app tracked it to one of the mall's busiest spots. It's a machine that purchases used cell phones. Dostal surmises that the thief who swiped his phone sold it at the machine.
The machine is run by a company called EcoATM. Dostal's app shows his phone has stayed put, apparently inside the machine, for the last three days.
"You would think that: the phone's been found, we know where it is, we've tracked it back to its location, we can just go get it. But it's not that easy," Dostal said.
Dostal says his phone is now caught in the red tape of law enforcement. The company that runs the machine processes its used phones in California.
"No one on site has access to the machine," Dostal said.
The folks behind EcoATM say sellers of phones are photographed and matched with a photo ID. Each transaction, they say, is monitored remotely by a human being. If the phone's serial number is registered as stolen, they'll deny the sale. However, they say there's no way to verify that the seller is the actual owner of the phone.
Dostal, they say, will get his phone back -- eventually.
"We'll make sure we do everything we can to be cooperative and get him his phone back as quickly as possible and have whoever took it brought to justice," said Ryan Kuder, director of marketing for EcoATM. Kuder says it's very rare for stolen phones to turn up in EcoATM machines.
11Alive News put Dostal in touch with Kuder. Late Tuesday, Kuder told us that Dostal would likely be able to retrieve his phone from Greenbriar Mall security officers by Tuesday night.