School employee stole 3,000 Apple iPods earmarked for Native American kids


She ran a program that used iPods to teach reading and math to underprivileged Native American schoolkids living on tribal land. Now, 46-year-old Kristy Stock of New Mexico is getting 18 months in prison for stealing 3,000 of them, which she resold for a personal gain of over $800,000 between 2013 and 2018.

That’s according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland (via Engadget), and Stock isn’t the first who’s been sentenced as part of this scheme — it all seems to center around around 36-year-old Colorado resident Saurabh Chawla, who bought up stolen electronics and other goods and resold them on eBay and Amazon. Law enforcement raided him in 2019, according to an earlier press release, and he bought stolen iPads from another New Mexico school district as well.

Perhaps even more significantly, Chawla worked with a FedEx distribution center manager from Delaware named Joseph Kukta to steal packages before they made it to customers like Walmart, with Chawla paying him $1.5 million according to court documents. Those thefts included shipments of Nike sneakers and devices from Apple, Epson, Kenwood, and Magellan, among other merchandise.

“Kukta selected specific packages which he believed, based on the shippers of the packages, contained high-end electronics or other merchandise of value that could be easily resold,” reads a portion of yet another press release, which continues:

In 2018, Kukta began to also steal packages from FedEx trailers that were loaded for delivery to a retail Store in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Kukta went to the FedEx facility on Sundays, holidays, or other times when employees were not at the facility, and removed the packages he previously identified from the FedEx trailers. Kukta attempted to avoid detection by turning off the lights at the facility and blocking certain surveillance cameras with cardboard boxes and other objects. Kukta loaded the stolen packages into his truck or into vehicles operated by FedEx contractors and parked at the facility, then drove the vehicles to his rented storage unit in Seaford, where he unloaded and stored the items.

It’s not clear if Stock, the school district employee, took iPods away from Native American schoolkids who needed them, or simply ones that went unused. One court document states that the iPods were purchased in bulk with federal grant money, and the school district stored unused ones.

In November 2018, Stock allegedly told Chawla that she would check “the school’s iPod inventory and let you know what I can get headed your way” for “Black Friday,” but was apparently only able to steal 30 that time, saying that she had “to keep some on hand through year end for the students.” I suppose that’s nice of her?

Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Chawla was sentenced to 66 months in prison; Kukta got 42 months; James Bender of Maryland, who let Chawla use his eBay and PayPal accounts to sell the stolen goods, was sentenced to a year and a day. Chawla also agreed to forfeit at least $3.5 million worth of assets, with the court seizing seven bank accounts, a 2013 Tesla Model S, and forcing him to sell a two-story, five-bedroom home in Aurora, Colorado that he purchased with fraud money. Kukta will pay $1.1 million and forfeit an additional $1.88 million in assets, according to the DA’s office.



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