Skip to main content

Charges: Minnesota man broke through walls to steal smartphones for crime ring

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

A Minnesota man authorities say is responsible for stealing hundreds of smartphones and tablets for an international electronics theft ring was caught after he purportedly left his own cellphone – with a photo of himself stored on it – behind at the crime scene.

The U.S Attorney's Office announced Tuesday Abbas Ateia Al Hussainawee, a 40-year-old from Minneapolis, is charged with conspiracy to engage in interstate transportation of stolen property.

The charges say he burglarized numerous electronics stores, taking thousands of dollars' worth of items which he would then sell to an infamous international crime ring, the Mustafa Organization.

How did he do it?

According to the charges, in lieu of breaking locked doors or smashing windows, Hussainawee would illegally enter a store by knocking a hole in the wall. He would specifically look for cellphone shops in strip malls, with an empty storefront next door, then break through to gain entry to the cellphone business.

The charges say he burglarized at least 22 different stores (across five states, including Minnesota), at times taking dozens of cellphones, iPads and tablet computers in a single swipe. Best Buy and Verizon stores were among the businesses hit. The Mustafa Organization then paid Hussainawee in cash for the items, the attorney's office says.

According to the Star Tribune, a special agent with the Secret Service testified Hussainawee was caught after he inadvertently dropped and left his personal cellphone at a Maplewood store, and investigators found a selfie on it.

The black market for stolen phones

There's a lot of money to be made in the (illegal) stolen cellphone business.

Wired magazine dove into that "secret world" this month, detailing one method that authorities say netted a California couple millions of dollars.

According to she story, the duo would pay homeless people $100 to go buy a cellphone, along with a plan – then hand the phone over to them and never pay a cent on the bill. Those phones would then be shipped to Asia and sold, often for close to $1,000. (Both are serving prison time now.)

The so-called Mustafa Organization was reportedly one of those rings.

According to charges filed in August, the family theft ring operated in eight states and was led by Jamal Talal Mustafa from Apple Valley.

They would hire runners (such as Hussainawee, authorities say) to use stolen identity information to sign up for a phone plan and get an expensive phone for cheap. The runners would then ship those phones to the Mustafas overseas, where they'd be sold for significantly more.

Twenty purported members of the Mustafa crime family were indicted earlier this year, in what was described as one of the largest criminal enterprise busts in Twin Cities history.

Last year, WNYC reported one estimate suggested 4,000 phones were stolen every single day in the U.S.

Next Up

School dinners lunch

Minnesota to offer free school meals to 90,000 extra students

Gov. Tim Walz, who is facing re-election in November, announced the measure on Monday.

motorcycle

Minneapolis man dies from injuries days after motorcycle pileup

The 69-year-old died after four days at Regions Hospital.

Sebastion Wolbersen-O’Hara

Police: 15-year-old missing from home north of Twin Cities

Authorities say he may be headed to the metro.

Joseph_P._Kennedy,_Sr_optimized

Foundation, the building, the win

Identifying Value Plus Catalysts helps your financial strategy and foundation

boating minnesota lake

25-year-old Hopkins man drowns after falling off boat

The man reportedly fell from the boat while fishing with friends.

mayor frey city minneapolis live stream march 14 2022

What's in Mayor Jacob Frey's budget proposal?

Here's a breakdown of what the Minneapolis mayor is focusing on in 2023-24.

Low, Mimi Parker

Low cancels Europe shows due to Mimi Parker's cancer treatment

The Duluth band says the decision follows 'recent changes' in Parker's treatment.

Screen Shot 2022-08-15 at 11.09.39 AM

Wisconsin man admits to 1992 revenge killings 15 years after boyhood tragedy

The 52-year-old man is in custody 30 years after the 1992 double murder.

Related

Screen Shot 2022-02-13 at 9.29.53 AM

Thief breaks through wall of gaming store, steals over $200K in merchandise

The owners are asking anyone who recognizes the suspect to come forward.