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September 17, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Mastermind of computer heist fails respect test, sentenced to 4 years in prison

If one is going to ask for an extremely lenient prison sentence for masterminding a $1 million computer heist, it’s a good idea to first pass the “respect for the law” test.

Anton Saljanin, 46, of Yorktown Heights, failed that test.

He asked U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Karas for one year and one day in prison for stealing 1,195 Apple MacBook Air laptop computers he had been hired to deliver to two public schools.

Federal guidelines called for 57 to 71 months of imprisonment. A one-year term, the U.S. Attorney’s Office argued in a sentencing memorandum, “would diminish respect for the law and undermine general deterrence.”

Saljanin had claimed he had “performed well while on pretrial release,” according to the sentencing memo. But a May 2016 photograph, posted on the website of a motorcycle club, suggested otherwise.

Saljanin, while on pretrial release, was seated at a poker table with three other men, with a black semiautomatic pistol next to his left hand. As a previously convicted felon, he was prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Saljanin had associated with criminals while released on bail, the sentencing memo states, suggesting that he could be tempted to commit additional crimes.

Prosecutors urged the court to sentence him to 57 to 71 months in prison, in line with federal guidelines, “to send a message that Saljanin must have respect for the law.”

Karas sentenced him to four years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman depicts Saljanin in a news release as the ringleader of an inside job. Court filings depict him as a thief who couldn’t tell a straight story.

Saljanin was hired in January 2014 to deliver two shipments of MacBooks from a Massachusetts technology company to high schools in New Jersey. He had worked for the shipping company for several years as an independent contractor and made numerous deliveries from the tech company.

He leased a yellow Freightliner from Penske Truck Rental and successfully delivered the first load of 1,300 computers.

He and his brother, Gjon, went back to the tech company and loaded eight more pallets. The computers were valued at $1,000 each retail, or nearly $1.2 million total, and $828 each wholesale, or $989,424 total.

He told Yorktown police that they drove to a 7-Eleven convenience store in Somers and then to a parking lot at 1700 Front St. He locked the truck and drove home with his brother in a BMW. The next morning, he discovered the truck missing and reported it as stolen.

He spent much of that day driving north and south on I-684. Finally, he told detectives, he spotted the yellow truck in a commuter parking lot near I-84 in Danbury, Connecticut, 20 miles from Yorktown.

The story didn’t make sense to police.

A Yorktown detective found no broken glass at the Front Street scene. A detective in Danbury noted that the Penske truck had a broken window. Glass inside the truck and on the ground indicated that the window was broken there.

Detectives also noted that the Penske truck would not have been visible to drivers passing by on I-84.

Investigators reviewed video surveillance recordings and photographs along the delivery route. A yellow Penske truck did indeed stop at the 7-Eleven in Somers, and two men who appeared to be the Saljanin brothers were in the store for about four minutes.

Seven minutes later, the truck was seen traveling toward Front Street. But then it turned onto Crompond Road and traveled in the direction of the Saljanins’ home and the residence of Ujka Vulaj, 56.

Twenty-nine minutes later, the truck arrived at the Front Street lot. Then a black SUV, similar to the Chevrolet Trailblazer owned by Gjon Saljanin, arrived. A minute later the SUV left, followed by the Penske truck.

On the shipment day, Vulaj and the Saljanin brothers had carried on 13 phone cell phone calls, according to the criminal complaint. Cell phone data established that Anton Saljanin had not traveled south on I-684 on the day he had claimed to be searching for the missing truck.

Then, many of the stolen computers were registered online, enabling the FBI to track down buyers and piece together several transactions. Vulaj and Carlos Caceres, 40, of the Bronx, the criminal complaint states, had sold many of the purloined laptops for $500 to $800 each.

All four men eventually admitted to playing parts in the heist.

Caceres pled guilty to conspiracy to possess and sell stolen property. Karas sentenced him to 27 months in prison on Jan. 6.

Vulaj and Gjon Saljanin pled guilty to conspiracy to theft, transportation and sale of stolen property. They were sentenced in May to one year and one day in prison.

Anton Saljanin pled guilty to conspiracy and to theft from an interstate shipment.

All four were ordered to forfeit ill-gotten gains. Caceres must pay $331,188 in restitution. Vulaj and the brothers must pay back $989,424.