A former Stanford University employee and her brother have pleaded guilty to federal charges related to thefts of Apple MacBooks worth more than $4 million from Stanford University, federal prosecutors said on March 22.
Patricia Castaneda, 37, of San Carlos, pleaded guilty to one count of federal program theft. Her brother, Eric Castaneda, 36, of Redwood City, pleaded to conspiracy to transport property interstate, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said.
The Castanedas are two of four individuals — including one who reportedly worked for Tesla in Palo Alto — who were charged and have taken plea deals; they took part in a crime operation that also involved an unnamed person from Folsom, California. The Folsom resident is alleged to have purchased hundreds of Apple MacBooks from the four defendants for sale to others outside of California, according to documents filed in court by the U.S. Attorney's Office Eastern District of California.
The documents state that Patricia Castaneda worked in the Stanford University School of Humanities and Sciences. One of her responsibilities was to order Apple MacBooks for university faculty and staff. In 2009 or 2010, she began stealing MacBooks she ordered and selling them for cash.
She initially sold the MacBooks to an unnamed individual she had met on Craigslist. In February 2016, she began giving the stolen MacBooks to her brother to sell to an unnamed person in Folsom, who resold and shipped the MacBooks to buyers outside California.
The thefts cost the university more than $4 million. The approximately 800 stolen MacBooks that Eric Castaneda sold to the Folsom resident had an estimated retail value of $2.3 million, prosecutors said.
The Folsom contact bought the laptops at prices ranging from $1,625 to $2,250 each from February 2016 through July 2019. In one text, that individual said he "would literally buy 100 if they were there to buy," according to court documents.
The Castanedas are scheduled for sentencing on June 7. Patricia Castaneda faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Eric Castaneda faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentences are at the court’s discretion, prosecutors said.
Two other people have also pleaded guilty in similar, separate cases. Cory Beck, 39, of Sunnyvale, pleaded guilty to three counts of making and subscribing a false tax return. Beck failed to report total earnings of $223,030 he made from 2016 to 2018 after selling stolen laptops to the Folsom buyer.
Beck worked in the information technology department at a Palo Alto electric vehicle and clean energy company. Federal prosecutors did not say which company, but he is listed as IT operations manager for Tesla, according to business website Zoominfo. Prosecutors said he had access to MacBook inventory. He sold the laptops for cash, in one year pocketing as much as $132,520, according to court documents.
Beck faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $100,000 fine on each of the three counts to which he pleaded guilty. He agreed to cooperate with the government and could receive a 50% reduction in his sentence. He will pay restitution for his unpaid taxes to the federal government and is scheduled for sentencing in June.
A fourth person, Jonas Jarut, 41, of Emeryville, sold 90 MacBooks valued at more than $209,000, which he stole from the University of California at Berkeley in 2019 and 2020. He was employed as a data administrator at the Graduate School of Education. He was responsible for procuring the laptops for staff and faculty.
Using his work-issued credit card, Jarut wasn't required to report purchases of less than $20,000, according to court documents. He initially sold the MacBooks on Craigslist, but he agreed to sell them to the Folsom seller directly after that person contacted him. He pleaded to conspiracy to transport stolen property interstate on Dec. 14, 2020, and is scheduled for a status conference regarding sentencing on June 14. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.