Stanford Employee Pleads Guilty in Stolen MacBook Scheme

SACRAMENTO — Patricia Castaneda, 38, of Redwood City and a former employee of Stanford University, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and her brother, Eric Castaneda, 37, also of Redwood City, was sentenced to 18 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller for their roles in a scheme that involved the theft and interstate sale of Apple MacBooks, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

In addition, Judge Mueller ordered Patricia Castaneda to pay $4,077,832 in restitution and ordered Eric Castaneda to pay $2,283,155 in restitution.

According to court documents, Patricia Castaneda worked in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University. In her position, Patricia Castaneda’s duties included ordering MacBooks for university faculty and staff. In 2009 or 2010, Patricia Castaneda began stealing MacBooks she ordered and selling them for cash. Initially, Patricia Castaneda sold the stolen MacBooks to an individual she met on Craigslist. In approximately February 2016, Patricia Castaneda began giving the stolen MacBooks to Eric Castaneda to sell to an individual named Philip James who, in turn, resold and shipped the MacBooks from Folsom to buyers outside California.

In total, the cost to the university of MacBooks Patricia Castaneda stole was over $4 million. That amount includes the cost to the university of approximately 800 stolen MacBooks Eric Castaneda sold to James, which was approximately $2.3 million.

This case was a product of an investigation by the IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Thuesen prosecuted the case.

In a separate case, on April 11, 2022, James pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme.