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Press Release

Former Employee at Middlesex County Warehouse Leased by Federal Government Admits Theft of Hundreds of iPhones

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. – A Somerset County, New Jersey, man admitted today that he stole almost 300 iPhones that had been seized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and were temporarily stored at a warehouse in Dayton, New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Joel Cruz, 27, of Franklin Park, New Jersey, pleaded guilty today 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 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.

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.

Between Jan. 9, 2015, 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. 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.

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.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Newark Field Office, under the direction of Assistant Special Agent in Charge Brian C. McCarthy; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Protective Service, Region 2, under the direction of Regional Director Robert Sooter; Customs and Border Protection, Office of Professional Responsibility, SAC/NYC, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Vance Kuhner; and the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Inspector General, Washington, D.C., under the direction of Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Sally D. Luttrell with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Senior Trial Counsel Leslie F. Schwartz of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.

Updated July 27, 2020

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 20-231