Former Fresno-Area Auto Dealer Sentenced to 4.5 Years in Prison for Bank Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Philip James, 35, of Folsom, pleaded guilty today to transporting stolen property interstate, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, from October 2015 through June 2020, James purchased almost 1,000 stolen Apple MacBooks from multiple individuals, including Cory Beck, Eric Castaneda, and Jonas Jarut. After purchasing the MacBooks, James generally resold and shipped them from Folsom to buyers located outside California.
Beck worked in the information technology department at an electric vehicle and clean energy company based in Palo Alto, “Company 1.” Beginning in October 2015, Beck stole new MacBooks from Company 1 and sold them to James. In total, James purchased at least 100 MacBooks that Beck stole from Company 1.
Eric Castaneda’s sister, Patricia Castaneda, worked in the School of Humanities and Sciences at a private university in Stanford, California, “University 1.” Beginning in February 2016, Patricia Castaneda stole new MacBooks from University 1 and gave them to Eric Castaneda to sell to James. In total, James purchased from Eric Castaneda at least 800 MacBooks that Patricia Castaneda stole from University 1.
Jarut worked as a database administrator in the Graduate School of Education at a public university in Berkeley, “University 2.” Beginning in March 2019, Jarut stole new MacBooks from University 2 and sold them to James. In total, James purchased at least 90 MacBooks Jarut stole from University 2.
As part of his plea agreement, James agreed to pay restitution as follows: $2,283,155 to University 1; $256,485 to Company 1; and $209,057 to University 2.
This case is a product of an investigation by the IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Thuesen is prosecuting the case.
Chief U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller is scheduled to sentence James on July 25, 2022. Jarut faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the court’s discretion after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
In separate cases, Eric Castaneda, Patricia Castaneda, Beck, and Jarut pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme.