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

Minnesota State Fair - main gate day 2021

Tickets still available for Minnesota State Fair preview event

The five-day Minnesota State Fair taster event, featuring over 30 food and drink vendors, is making its return at the end of the month.

Screen Shot 2022-05-12 at 11.47.44 AM

Woman critical after boyfriend stabs her in neck at light rail station

The boyfriend of the victim is said to have stabbed her, according to St. Paul Police.

Female wolf illegally killed by poachers within Voyageurs Wolf Project.

Female wolf illegally killed in Voyageurs National Park

Researchers for the project said this is the fourth collared wolf that has been illegally killed in the past two years by poachers.

116 E 22nd Ext

Gallery: Beautiful English-style home showcases grandeur of an earlier era

Located across Washburn Park and the Minneapolis Institute of Art

covid

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Thursday, May 12

Eleven new deaths reported in today's update.

Image from iOS

Storm fells tree in Coon Rapids, splitting house in two

The family was reportedly in the basement at the time.

ambulance

2-year-old dies in farming accident in western Wisconsin

The child was run over by farm equipment, according to the sheriff.

storm, severe, shelf cloud

Another bout of severe storms expected across MN

More nasty storms could spawn tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds.

Screen Shot 2022-05-12 at 6.59.33 AM

Storms leave wreckage, flooding, tens of thousands without power

Record levels of rain and 80 mph winds caused havoc in the metro.

Screen Shot 2022-05-11 at 7.04.37 PM

LIVE UPDATES: Dangerous storms move through Twin Cities

We'll have live updates as the storms move through the metro.

tornado

Tornado watch issued in Twin Cities, southern Minnesota

The watch will remain in place until midnight.

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.