Former Newark Housing Authority IT director admits to embezzling funds

NEWARK, NJ — Newark Housing Authority’s former director of information technology has admitted to using his position to embezzle NHA funds to purchase cellular telephones and other electronic devices, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced March 31.

Venancio Diaz, 56, of Jersey City, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti in Newark federal court on March 30 to an information charging him with committing theft from an agency receiving federal funds.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, from December 2013 to Aug. 10, 2021, Diaz bought, on behalf of NHA and using NHA funds, 1,509 electronic devices, primarily cellular telephones and tablets, from a telecommunications company. 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.

The count of theft from an agency receiving federal funds carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum potential fine of $250,000 or twice the gross amount of pecuniary gain that any person derived from the offense, whichever is greater. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 4.