Former AT&T employee who sold stolen cellphones online sentenced to 10 years

Posted Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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A jury reached out and touched a former AT&T employee who orchestrated a theft ring that acquired and sold more than 800 stolen cellphones on Craigslist and eBay, the Tarrant County district attorney’s office said Thursday.

Rashad Azmi Elqutob, 37, of Arlington was convicted Wednesday of engaging in organized crime and of theft over $200,000, a news release said.

The jury sentenced him to 10 years in prison for organized crime and five years for theft. The sentences will run concurrently.

Visiting Judge Jerry Ray ordered Elqutob to pay $280,000 restitution.

In most cases, employees of communications companies such as Radio Shack, New Breed Verizon and AT&T stole the phones and sold them to Elqutob for far less than their value, prosecutors said. Elqutob created fake businesses he called Dealmaker, Reemsale and Wireless World Warehouse to sell the phones online. The businesses grossed more than $1.5 million from 2009 to January, prosecutors said.

Radio Shack and AT&T contacted the Secret Service independently after discovering that a large number of their cellphones were missing but activated. The federal agency and the district attorney’s office began a joint investigation.

On Dec. 2, 2009, authorities raided the homes of Rashad Elqutob and his father, Azmi Elqutob. More than 1,000 cellphones were found at Azmi Elqutob’s house and 35 at Rashard Elqutob’s.

“Of that number, only 17 phones belonged to RadioShack and only one belonged to AT&T. The rest belonged to New Breed Verizon—a company that was unaware of the theft,” the news release said.

In a second raid, more evidence was seized at Rashad Elqutob’s house. The stolen phones were valued at more than $280,000.

Before the investigation ended, Azmi Elqutob was killed in June 2011 during a robbery at Smokies Food Store, a convenience store he owned with his son, the release said.

According to news reports at the time, Azmi Elqutob was a Palestinian native of Jerusalem who fled about the time of the 1967 Six-Day War. He and his wife settled in Kuwait, where Azmi became an architect and their children were born. They fled Kuwait in 1991 after the Iraq invasion.

The man who shot Azmi Elqutob was convicted of capital murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. His co-defendant was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to 89 years in prison.

Azmi Elqutob was killed before authorities could charge him in the cellphone case, the news release said.

Company employees accused of stealing the phones and selling them to the Elqutobs have been charged with engaging in organized crime and are awaiting trial, the release said.

Rashad Elqutob was born in Kuwait and attended high school in North Texas before getting a job with AT&T. Described by prosecutors as the “CEO of the criminal enterprise,” he was arrested in March 2012 and was free on bail until Wednesday.

“Under cross-examination during the trial, he admitted he was still selling cellphones online even after his arrest and indictment,” the news release said.

“This case is about American greed,” said Lori Burks, who prosecuted the case with Susan Linam and Kim Martinez, all Tarrant County assistant district attorneys. “Elqutob came to this country with nothing, got a great education and had a great job, but it wasn’t enough. He used his knowledge of the cellphone industry to exploit weaknesses and make millions.”

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752 Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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