TAYLOR, Mich. - The owners of a cellphone store in Taylor are accused of buying hundreds of stolen Apple products from thieves and an undercover agent and selling the devices illegally across the country, officials said.
Frank Manni Jr. and Abdulsamed Montaser operate Ace Future Wireless, a cellphone retail and repair store on Eureka Road in Taylor, police said.
The two men were involved in a scheme to buy stolen high-end electronic devices, sell them for profit and ship or transport them around the country, according to a criminal complaint.
Devices stolen in Romulus
Between Aug. 19 and Aug. 26, there was a series of three breaking and entering incidents at an elementary school in Romulus, police said.
Officials from the Romulus Police Department said about 40 Apple iPads were stolen from the school.
Authorities identified one of the men involved in the theft, and he admitted that he sold five stolen iPads to an employee at Ace Future Wireless, according to police.
Romulus police executed a search warrant at Ace Future Wireless and recovered several iPads that had been stolen from the elementary school, officials said.
More stolen devices linked to store
On Sept. 13, Homeland Security agents interviewed a person who admitted to stealing iPhones from Walmart, Sam's Club and Target stores, authorities said.
He told police he sold five iPhones to Ace Future Wireless, receiving $400 for each iPhone X and $300 for each iPhone 8.
Police said the man identified Montaser as an employee of the store when shown an image from Montaser's driver's license.
Stolen devices shipped to Arizona
On Oct. 2, 2018, federal agents searched three packages shipped by Ace Future Wireless to a location in Arizona.
Agents said they found 72 iPhones, one Macbook Pro, one Xbox and one Xbox controller in the packages.
So far, investigators have learned 22 of the 26 phones checked by Verizon were stolen, officials said.
Undercover agent sells phones to store
A undercover special agent with Homeland Security went to Ace Future Wireless Oct. 4 and sold Montaser four iPhones for $2,800, according to court records.
The agent told Montaser the iPhones "hadn't even been inventoried" and were "straight off the rack." The agent told Montaser he had a connection at a big box store in the area, officials said.
The agent returned to the store Oct. 12 and sold Montaser two iPhones for $1,400, saying the phones had been stolen from Best Buy before they could be inventoried by employees, according to authorities.
Authorities traveled Oct. 16 to Arizona to help with four search warrants and four arrests in connection with the buying and selling of stolen cellphones, police said.
One person was arrested when he picked up 10 large boxes shipped the day before by Montaser and Manni, police said.
When agents searched the boxes, they found about 340 iPhones, including the two sold to Montaser by the undercover agent, according to police.
Of the 340 iPhones, 76 were assigned to Verizon, and officials with the company said 67 had been stolen, according to authorities.
Cellphones sent to Ohio store
Montaser sent seven boxes to Ohio Cell Phone Store on Oct. 22, police said. Two more boxes were sent to the Ohio Cell Phone Store the following day, police said.
Authorities said they searched the boxes and found 52 cellphones.
Montaser drove from Michgian to the Ohio Cell Phone Store around 5 p.m. Oct. 24 and stayed at the store for about 30 minutes before returning to Michigan, according to authorities.
Police said Montaser sent two more boxes to the Ohio Cell Phone Store on Oct. 26 and 11 more the following day.
He drove to the Ohio Cellphone Store on Oct. 30 and stayed there for about 30 minutes, police said. When he left, he was carrying a large UPS shipping envelope, according to authorities.
While Montaser was driving back, he was pulled over by law enforcement officials in Monroe County.
Montaser told officers he was coming back from Ohio after picking up invoices and that he had $65,000 in cash in the car, police said. He told officers he is the co-owner of a cellphone store in Taylor.
Police said Montaser gave officials consent to search his vehicle, and they found the shipping envelope, which contained $65,000.
Undercover agent returns to store
The undercover agent returned to Ace Future Wireless on Nov. 19 and offered to sell Montaser 12 iPhones, officials said.
Montaser told the agent he only had enough cash to pay for three of the iPhones but said he would have more cash later in the day, officials said.
When Montaser received the phones from the agent, he entered the information into a computer, officials said. The agent asked what he was doing and Montaser said he was checking to see if the phones had been reported stolen, according to authorities.
Montaser said if the phones had been reported stolen, he wouldn't want to buy them. The phones did not come up in the computer as stolen, so Montaser bought them, the agent said.
The agent said he asked Montaser what would happen if the phones were reported stolen next week, and Montaser said that wouldn't be a problem because they would be out of the country by that time.
Montaser paid the agent $2,100 in cash and told him to return when he would have more money to pay for the remaining phones, according to authorities.
Undercover agent meets Manni
When the agent returned to Ace Future Wireless later that afternoon, he was greeted by Manni, who asked "what he had," officials said.
The agent said he had phones to sell, but Manni told him he "did not know anything about that" because he "did not deal with that part," according to authorities.
Manni told the agent to wait for Montaser, and once he saw Montaser, the agent said he had seen a man sitting in the parking lot that he suspected was a law enforcement official.
Manni heard the comment and introduced himself to the agent, thanking him for looking out for law enforcement officials, the agent said. Manni said Montaser had told him about the agent and said he was willing to do business now that they had met, court records show.
The agent said Manni also offered him something to drink.
The agent said he had nine phones to sell, but when they had been checked out, Manni told him they had paid out most of their cash on hand and only had $1,000 left. He asked the agent to return later to pick up cash, giving him a business check for $5,300, officials said.
Manni gave the agent his personal cellphone number in case he ever needed to get in touch, the agent said.
The agent returned Nov. 20 and he was given $5,300 in cash, according to authorities.
Accusations against Montaser, Manni
The criminal complaint alleges Montaser and Manni knowingly purchased, received, sold and transported stolen goods and conspired with each other to do so.
Officials are seeking charges of transportation, sale or receipt of stolen goods and conspiracy.
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