A Somerset County man admitted on July 27 that he stole almost 300 Apple iPhones that had been seized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and were temporarily stored at a warehouse in the Dayton section of South Brunswick.
Joel Cruz, 27, of Franklin Park, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp to an information charging him with theft from an interstate or foreign shipment, according to information provided by U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
In November 2014, CBP seized approximately 14 boxes, containing 628 iPhones, from Boston Logan International Airport. All of the boxes were shipped from the United States, and were en route to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. After their seizure, the boxes were consolidated into six containers, each containing a unique shipping code, and were shipped and delivered to the Dayton warehouse, according to the statement.
Cruz was an employee of Company 1, which had contracted with the Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture (TEOAF), a federal agency, to provide services regarding the management of property seized by CBP and stored at the warehouse. Company 1 contracted with third parties, including Company 2, to provide temporary contractors to work at the warehouse, according to the statement.
Between Jan. 9, and Feb. 2, 2015, Cruz scanned the location of the seized boxes inside the warehouse and stole 292 iPhones worth $218,372. He removed the iPhones from the warehouse on separate occasions by concealing them in his pants, boots, and jacket. Luis Ramos, a Company 2 employee, assisted Cruz in removing a small number of the iPhones in exchange for one or two of the phones, according to the accusations. Ramos was previously charged in connection with his role in the scheme, and those charges remain pending.
Cruz provided 175 to 200 of the stolen iPhones to a former employee of the warehouse to sell on Cruz’s behalf. Cruz sold the remaining stolen iPhones on his own, according to the statement.
The theft from interstate or foreign shipment carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and is punishable by a fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of the pecuniary gain or loss from the offense.