Former NHA director of IT sentenced to 2 years in prison for embezzlement

NEWARK, NJ — Newark Housing Authority’s former director of information technology was sentenced Sept. 28 to two years in prison for using his position to embezzle NHA funds to purchase cell phones and other electronic devices, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Venancio Diaz, 57, of Jersey City, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti in Newark federal court 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 cell phones 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.

In addition to the prison term, Martinotti sentenced Diaz to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $594,425 in restitution to the NHA. Diaz also previously consented to a $594,425 money judgment, forfeiting the monies he obtained as a result of his illegal scheme, and also agreed to forfeit electronic devices belonging to NHA that were seized by law enforcement or otherwise in his possession, including 27 cell phones.