Newark housing official gets 2 years in prison for embezzling $594,425

Venancio Diaz inset over image of Riverside Villa was sentenced to prison for robbing the Newark Housing Authority.

Newark Housing Authority (NHA)’s former director of information technology was sentenced to 24 months in prison for using his position to embezzle taxpayer funds by purchasing cellular telephones and other electronic devices that he later sold online.

Venancio Diaz, 57, of Jersey City, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti in Newark federal court to an information charging him with committing theft from an agency receiving federal funds. Judge Martinotti imposed the sentence today by videoconference.

According to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger, documents filed in this case, Diaz bought, on behalf of NHA and using NHA funds, 1,509 electronic devices, primarily cellular telephones and tablets, from a telecommunications company between December 2013 and Aug. 10, 2021.

Diaz then caused those devices to be activated on NHA’s account on the company’s network for a short period of time – often only days or weeks.

After the brief period of activation ended, Diaz posed as the owner of the devices and sold them to two different online electronics resale marketplaces.

Diaz directed all the proceeds of the sales – a total of $594,425 – to his own bank accounts and kept the money for his own personal use.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Martinotti sentenced Diaz to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $594,425 in restitution to the NHA.

Diaz also previously consented to a $594,425 money judgment, forfeiting the monies he obtained as a result of his illegal scheme, and also agreed to forfeit electronic devices belonging to NHA that were seized by law enforcement or otherwise in his possession, including 27 cellular telephones. 

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