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Press Release

California Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Fraudulent Cellphone Scheme

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

ALBUQUERQUE – A California man was sentenced late Friday afternoon for his role in a scheme to fraudulently obtain high-value cellular phones from retail stores in California, Arizona and New Mexico and to resell the cellular phones for profit.  Joshua Ferdman, 25, of Woodland Hills, Cal., was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.  Ferdman also was ordered to pay $45,715.59 restitution to the victims of the criminal scheme.

Ferdman’s sentence was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough, Resident Agent in Charge Richard Ferretti of Albuquerque Resident Office of the U.S. Secret Service, and Chief Allen Banks of the Albuquerque Police Department.

Ferdman and his three co-defendants, Jeffrey Contella, 28, and Joseph Cohen, 26, both of Los Angeles, Cal., and Amir Meir Levi, 36, of Sherman Oaks, Cal., were indicted in Feb. 2012, and charged with (1) conspiracy to transport stolen property and commit access device fraud and (2) access device fraud.  Contella, Cohen and Levi entered guilty pleas to the indictment without the benefit of any plea agreement in Jan. 2013.  Ferdman entered a similar guilty plea in Feb. 2013. 

In entering their guilty pleas, the defendants admitted that, in May 2011, they engaged in a scheme to fraudulently obtain high-value cellphones, including smartphones, from Sprint stores, and resell the cellphones in a Van Nuys, Cal., store owned by Cohen and through an on-line store hosted by EBay.  The defendants traveled to Sprint stores throughout California, Arizona and New Mexico and fraudulently obtained significant quantities of cellphones by impersonating Sprint customers and the unauthorized use of the customers’ account numbers.  They obtained the phones free of cost by instructing store clerks to bill the cost of the phones to the accounts of the unwitting Sprint customers.

According to court filings, from May 10, 2011 through May 16, 2011, Ferdman and Levi traveled to Sprint stores in California, including stores in Fullerton, Los Angeles, Hollywood, San Francisco, Sacramento and Folsom, to perpetuate their fraudulent scheme.  From May 21, 2011 to May 24, 2011, Ferdman and Contella traveled to Sprint stores in Arizona and New Mexico for that same purpose.  During this period, Levi wired cash to Ferdman and Contella; Ferdman sent cellphones to Levi via Federal Express; Levi delivered the cellphones to Cohen; and Cohen sold the cellphones.  On May 25, 2011, Ferdman, Contella and Levi fraudulently obtained 13 smartphones from a Sprint store in Albuquerque through the unauthorized use of a Sprint customer’s account number.  That same day, Ferdman, Contella and Levi attempted to purchase an additional six smartphones from a Sprint store in Albuquerque.

Cohen’s sentencing hearing is scheduled on Sept. 6, 2013 and Levi’s sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 26, 2013.  Contella’s sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.  At sentencing, each faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge, and ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the access device fraud charge. 

In announcing Ferdman’s sentence, Richard Ferretti, Resident Agent in Charge of the Albuquerque office of the Secret Service, said, “The results of this investigation are an example of the strategic partnerships between the Secret Service, Albuquerque Police Department, United States Attorney’s Office, and our private sector partners.  We continue to prioritize investigative cases, focusing on electronic and financial crimes which have a significant community impact in New Mexico.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the Albuquerque Police Department’s Organized Crime Unit, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson.
Updated January 26, 2015