A Somerset County man admitted Monday that he stole 300 iPhones seized by federal immigration authorities by stuffing them in his pants, boots and jacket over the course of a month or so.
Joel Cruz, 27, of Franklin Park, was working for a government subcontractor hired to manage property seized by Customs and Border Protection agents that was being stored in a warehouse in the Dayton section of South Brunswick.
CBP agents had sent 628 phones bound for Dubai to the warehouse after seizing them at Boston Logan International Airport, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
Cruz “scanned the location of the seized boxes inside the warehouse and stole 292 iPhones worth $218,372,” Carpenito said.
“He removed the iPhones from the warehouse on separate occasions by concealing them in his pants, boots, and jacket,” he said.
Cruz “provided 175 to 200 of the stolen iPhones to a former employee of the warehouse to sell on [his] behalf,” Carpenito said. “Cruz sold the remaining stolen iPhones on his own.”
Cruz, who pleaded guilty by videoconference Monday before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp in Trenton to theft from an interstate or foreign shipment, had help from another worker who also was charged, the U.S. attorney said.
Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, Newark Field Office; U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service; Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Inspector General in Washington, DC, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea, secured by Senior Trial Counsel Leslie F. Schwartz of his Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
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