Devin Tribunella pleads guilty in $3 million pawn shop scheme targeting addicts

·5 min read

The Rochester man who targeted drug-addicted shoplifters in a multi-million dollar pawn shop scheme and then boasted about his gaudy lifestyle through social media posts pleaded guilty Wednesday morning.

Devin Tribunella, 37, who was arrested and charged in November 2019 after authorities raided his Greece pawn shop, pleaded guilty to transportation of stolen goods in interstate commerce. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 19 by U.S. District Court Judge Charles J. Siragusa.

The plea agreement calls for a sentencing range of 46 to 57 months in federal prison, a fine up to $200,000, and up to three years of post-release supervision. Siragusa, however, is not required to follow these guidelines. Tribunella remains free before sentencing.

Under the plea, Tribunella agreed to forfeit nearly $150,000 from two PayPal accounts and four vehicles — a 2008 Lamborghini, a 2014 Mercedes-Benz, a 2014 Rolls Royce, a 2015 Porsche 911.

The government also ordered payment of $1.6 million as part of the forfeiture agreement.

This plea comes nearly a year after his co-defendant Wade Shadders, his former employee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport stolen goods in interstate commerce. Shadders indicated he would testify against Tribunella.

Tribunella was originally charged with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, selling and conspiring to sell stolen goods across state lines, and engaging in financial transactions involving the proceeds of stolen goods.

Devin Tribunella arrives in Greece Town Court Tuesday.
Devin Tribunella arrives in Greece Town Court Tuesday.

Tribunella, who owned Royal Crown Pawn & Jewelry at 3635 Dewey Ave. in Greece, recruited individuals who were often drug-addicted to go out and steal items from local stores. Tribunella would buy the items for a fraction of their retail prices and then resell them on eBay or Amazon.

He profited $3.2 million between Jan. 1, 2017, and Sept. 16, 2019, according to the criminal complaint.

When asked by Siragusa why he did it, Tribunella said his store was robbed a year or two before and he "lost everything." So when someone came in with a new, in-box item, Tribunella admitted it was an "easy flip" so "I just kept doing it."

More: Devin Tribunella, Thomas Nary among 5 charged in $15.7 million pawn shop stolen goods ring

Tribunella targeted "individuals struggling with opiate addiction" to steal items from stores in Monroe County, including CVS, Wegmans, Target, Walmart, Kohl's, Circuit City and Home Depot, according to the criminal complaint.

The defendants "knowingly purchased stolen, new-in-box goods" for about 30% of their retail value and then resold the items on eBay and Amazon. The items were then shipped to buyers, many of whom were outside of New York state.

Tribunella identified items he wanted to purchase based on what was in high demand on eBay. He often bought from the same individuals multiple times per week, prosecutors said.

The defendants made false and fraudulent entries in LeadsOnline, a database used by law enforcement to track stolen goods. They also violated the terms of service user agreements with eBay and Amazon.

One booster or thief, who was "a known opioid addict" and had been arrested at least 14 times for stealing from Rochester-area stores, said Tribunella would send "picture text messages of items he wanted (the person) to steal," the booster told Monroe County sheriff's deputies on July 31, 2018.

The booster continued, "(Tribunella) is very aware of the fact I sell him stolen items. He tells me what items to steal and locations to go and steal them from."

When he was confronted by a sergeant from the Greece Police Department on April 29, 2019, Tribunella justified purchasing stolen items by saying, "They're gonna do home invasions. They're gonna do home robberies." After leaving, Tribunella called the sergeant and asked him to return. "Tribunella offered to give (the sergeant) a framed, autographed picture of Michael Jordan," Internal Revenue Service special agent Giulio Scoccia wrote in the criminal complaint

The sergeant declined. According to the complaint, Tribunella told the sergeant, "The only way it makes it not stolen to us is because we paid for it ... It becomes un-stolen to us because we actually purchased it."

Federal authorities seized more than $400,00 worth of luxury vehicles Tribunella bought with proceeds from wire fraud after they executed a search warrant at his downtown Rochester apartment.

Authorities said Tribunella often boasted about his luxury car collection, jewelry, and other gaudy items. They said the items were purchased through the illegal sales made at Tribunella's pawn shop.

Tribunella was ticketed in 2018 after he abandoned the damaged Lamborghini when he struck a fire hydrant on East Avenue. Rochester police said Tribunella fled on foot after the crash and the vehicle had to be removed by a flatbed truck.

On the same day authorities raided Tribunella's business, they also executed a search warrant another Dewey Avenue pawn shop, this one in the city of Rochester.

Thomas Nary pleaded guilty to transportation of stolen goods in interstate commerce. The plea agreement calls for a sentence of 37 to 46 months in federal prison or 57 to 71 months, but it is subjective to a judge's discretion.

He is scheduled to be sentenced March 30.

Nary, who owned Rochester Pawn & Gold at 1440 Dewey Ave. in Rochester, was resold $12.5 million in stolen goods on eBay and Amazon between Jan. 1, 2015, and Aug. 14, 2019. His two employees, Eric Finnefrock and Ralph Swain, previously pleaded guilty.

Contact Will Cleveland at wcleveland@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @willcleveland13, Facebook @willcleveland13, and Instagram @clevelandroc. Thanks to our subscribers for supporting quality local journalism. If you aren’t a subscriber, please consider a digital subscription.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Devin Tribunella pleads guilty in pawn shop scheme targeting addicts

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