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iEntrapment: Teen claims cops tricked him into buying stolen smart phone

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A Dyker Heights college freshman claims that cops tricked him into breaking the law during a massive citywide iPhone sting that nabbed more than 40 Brooklynites — and now the teen’s father wants to sue the city.

A man working with police lied to 19-year-old Rob Tester about a “stolen” iPhone he was selling, then cops arrested Tester for theft when he bought it, claims the teen’s father, who says police entrapped his kid by using a sob story about not having enough money for Christmas.

Tester says the NYPD operative ambushed him when he left McKinley Park Library on Fort Hamilton Parkway last Wednesday and was duped into paying $20 for an iPhone he didn’t want — which the man claimed he bought legally.

The Manhattan Borough Community College student said the peddler ignored his refusals, claiming that he didn’t have enough money to feed his daughter on Christmas. After several tries, the informant eventually persuaded Tester to buy the smartphone, which retails for $200 and up.

“He was really persistent, I felt sympathy,” Tester said.

Once he forked over the money, four cops rushed up to cuff him, according to Tester, who spent the next 26 hours locked up in central booking.

Tester was one of 141 suspects arrested for possession of stolen items during these citywide NYPD stings. Most of the arrests took place at convenience stores, newsstands, delis, barber shops and other business — including nine in Bensonhurst, six in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, two in Flatlands, and six in Williamsburg. Police say the operation was one of its finest hours, and that the suspects were well aware that they were buying pinched merchandise.

“They were clearly told the items were stolen as the reason for them being offered for sale so cheaply,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

But an employee at an 86th Street newsstand backs Tester’s story. The man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said cops snagged another man in front of a nearby store under similarly dubious circumstances.

“[The guy working with police] never said it was a stolen phone, he said that he bought it from an Apple store the day before, but now he needed the money for his wife,” the newsstand clerk said.

Tester’s irate father said he has hired a lawyer to sue the city for making an illegal arrest.

“[The cops] need to understand that they can’t do this, they should be losing their badges,” Robert Tester Sr. fumed.

Matthew Galluzzo, Tester’s layer, said the 19-year-old would not have broken the law if the cops didn’t trick him into doing so.

“If a police officer comes up and says, ‘I own this thing,’ that is not stolen, you don’t have a right to arrest that person,” said Galluzzo. “It’s entrapment.”

Cops shrugged off Tester’s claims, but his arrest has steamed at least one area pol: Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) immediately fired off a letter to Commissioner Ray Kelly demanding action.

“Trying to root out merchants who are known dealers in stolen electronics is one matter,” he wrote in the letter dated Dec. 22. “Luring unsuspecting and otherwise law-abiding teenagers to ‘buy’ goods from undercover officers is another matter entirely.”

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@cnglocal.com or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at twitter.com/dsmacleod.

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Reader Feedback

larry from bay ridge says:
The police does this all the time. The teen was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Dec. 28, 2011, 10:34 am
Jon from Bay Ridge says:
There is a lot of talk on the air and in the press about the iphone arrests in Brooklyn last month, in reading some of these comments they are totally off base. We know the Tester family, My wife and I grew up with Robert’s parents, they are very good hardworking, intelligent and caring people, and loving parents. My wife and I were impressed by Bobby and Nancy Tester eldest son Robert, quiet, smart, caring, outgoing, and well read, he was truly a pleasure to work with around BRAVO. In many ways he resembles his parents when they were his age.
Both parents had a strong pull toward community service and tolerance toward other people growing up. Nancy was a quiet, similar to her son, knowing her was a pleasure, she was beautiful and shy, very outgoing and extremely organized.
Robert’s father, better known to us as Bobby was a great friend and a leader, he commanded your attention when he walked into a room. Like their son, Bobby and Nancy were driven to succeed by helping others, instilled in Bobby was a strong sense of right and wrong, he was an Eagle Scout, very idealistic, and deeply involved in the community.
It is this part of each other that they must have instilled to their child that placed their son in such peril on that day, he was clearly used by the police, his sense of caring for others became his crime, all the things that made up his parents fabric didn’t matter, the police saw him as just another number to make their tally’s for the day, my wife and I hope that the family recovers and young Robert’s story gets out and more people come forward and tell their story, no one should ever be arrested for doing the right thing and helping someone they felt was in need.
Jan. 3, 2012, 12:33 pm

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