iEntrapment: Teen claims cops tricked him into buying stolen smart phone

iEntrapment: Teen claims cops tricked him into buying stolen smart phone
Photo by Arthur DeGaeta

A Dyker Heights college freshman claims that cops tricked him into breaking the law during a massive citywide iPhone sting that nabbed more than 40 Brooklynites — and now the teen’s father wants to sue the city.

A man working with police lied to 19-year-old Rob Tester about a “stolen” iPhone he was selling, then cops arrested Tester for theft when he bought it, claims the teen’s father, who says police entrapped his kid by using a sob story about not having enough money for Christmas.

Tester says the NYPD operative ambushed him when he left McKinley Park Library on Fort Hamilton Parkway last Wednesday and was duped into paying $20 for an iPhone he didn’t want — which the man claimed he bought legally.

The Manhattan Borough Community College student said the peddler ignored his refusals, claiming that he didn’t have enough money to feed his daughter on Christmas. After several tries, the informant eventually persuaded Tester to buy the smartphone, which retails for $200 and up.

“He was really persistent, I felt sympathy,” Tester said.

Once he forked over the money, four cops rushed up to cuff him, according to Tester, who spent the next 26 hours locked up in central booking.

Tester was one of 141 suspects arrested for possession of stolen items during these citywide NYPD stings. Most of the arrests took place at convenience stores, newsstands, delis, barber shops and other business — including nine in Bensonhurst, six in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, two in Flatlands, and six in Williamsburg. Police say the operation was one of its finest hours, and that the suspects were well aware that they were buying pinched merchandise.

“They were clearly told the items were stolen as the reason for them being offered for sale so cheaply,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

But an employee at an 86th Street newsstand backs Tester’s story. The man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said cops snagged another man in front of a nearby store under similarly dubious circumstances.

“[The guy working with police] never said it was a stolen phone, he said that he bought it from an Apple store the day before, but now he needed the money for his wife,” the newsstand clerk said.

Tester’s irate father said he has hired a lawyer to sue the city for making an illegal arrest.

“[The cops] need to understand that they can’t do this, they should be losing their badges,” Robert Tester Sr. fumed.

Matthew Galluzzo, Tester’s layer, said the 19-year-old would not have broken the law if the cops didn’t trick him into doing so.

“If a police officer comes up and says, ‘I own this thing,’ that is not stolen, you don’t have a right to arrest that person,” said Galluzzo. “It’s entrapment.”

Cops shrugged off Tester’s claims, but his arrest has steamed at least one area pol: Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) immediately fired off a letter to Commissioner Ray Kelly demanding action.

“Trying to root out merchants who are known dealers in stolen electronics is one matter,” he wrote in the letter dated Dec. 22. “Luring unsuspecting and otherwise law-abiding teenagers to ‘buy’ goods from undercover officers is another matter entirely.”

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at [email protected] or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at twitter.com/dsmacleod.