Nation & World

School worker stole 3,000 iPods meant for Native American kids in New Mexico, feds say

Apple introduced the iPod in 2001. While it still makes the iPod touch, left, it discontinued the iPod Nano, center, and iPod Shuffle in 2019
Apple introduced the iPod in 2001. While it still makes the iPod touch, left, it discontinued the iPod Nano, center, and iPod Shuffle in 2019 AP

A former New Mexico school employee responsible for overseeing a program that provides Apple iPods to Native American students living on tribal reservations is accused of stealing more than 3,000 of those iPods.

Kristy Stock, 46, of Waterflow, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for her years-long involvement in the million-dollar scheme, according to a Jan. 12 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Maryland.

The defense attorney representing Stock did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stock oversaw the program while working for Central Consolidated School District in Shiprock, New Mexico from 2010 to 2019, according to the news release. During that time, she’d use federal grant monies to buy iPods in bulk, usually about 100 to 250 per order, two to three times a year.

In a plea agreement, authorities say Stock admitted to stealing over 3,000 iPods from 2013 to 2018 to resell to a co-defendant identified as Saurabh Chawla, and others, on eBay.

From 2015 to 2018, officials say Stock would communicate with Chawla by sharing details like the model, color and number of Apple products she obtained. The two would negotiate a price, and Stock would ship the items to Chawla’s relative, James Bender, in Maryland, according to the news release.

Officials say Chawla would pay Stock through Bender’s PayPal accounts, and Stock admitted to receiving over $800,000 from selling stolen iPods worth over $1 million. And once Bender received the iPods, authorities say Chawla would sell them through Bender’s eBay account “at a substantial markup” as his account had “previously been suspended due to security concerns.”

“These types of crimes take time, money, and equipment away from our students,” Superintendent Daniel P. Benevidaz said in a statement to Farmington Daily Times. “They are ultimately the ones that lose out in these situations.”

Stock also admitted to filing false tax returns from 2012 to 2017, equal to a U.S. tax loss of $270,821, authorities say.

Chawla, 36, of Aurora, Colorado, was sentenced to 5 years and 6 months in prison, and Bender, 36, of Baltimore, was sentenced to a year and one day in prison, according to the news release. Chawla was also ordered to pay $713,619 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and forfeit his 2013 Tesla Model S, over $2 million from accounts in his name and the sale of property in Aurora.

Central Consolidated School District is in the northwest corner of the state, about 210 miles northwest of Albuquerque.

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Kaitlyn Alanis is a McClatchy National Real-Time Reporter based in Kansas. She is an agricultural communications & journalism alumna of Kansas State University.
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