Man pleads not guilty to illegal phone upgrades in Wallingford

WALLINGFORD — A New Haven man charged with defrauding Verizon Wireless of nearly $35,000 pleaded not guilty in Meriden Superior Court on Wednesday.

Leothis Stevenson , 33, of 1363 Quinnipiac St., New Haven, was arrested on July 17 and charged with first-degree larceny.

According to the arrest warrant, police were called to the Verizon Wireless store on Alexander Drive on May 7 for a report of an employee theft. Associate Director Alice Beringer told police Stevenson, an employee for eight years prior to his termination in March, was suspected of fraudulent phone upgrades.

Police spoke with Beringer about a month later and she told officers an audit showed Stevenson fraudulently upgraded 67 cellphones between Dec. 12, 2012 and March 28, 2013, the warrant said. Beringer told police that 10 phones were stopped before shipment by company fraud controls and three were redirected back to Verizon Wireless. The remaining 54 fraudulent upgraded phones were worth a total of $34,488.

Police investigated the addresses the phones were shipped to, and all four homes belonged to a friend or family member of Stevenson, the warrant said. Stevenson told police that after he didn’t get caught after shipping one phone to himself, he started processing more upgrades. Stevenson told police he would sell the phones on Craigslist.

According to statements in court Wednesday, a plea deal offer has been made to Stevenson, but no details were discussed. He is due back in court on Oct. 16.

— Lauren Sievert

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