GROVELAND — A Groveland man who may have made nearly $400,000 stealing and then selling pricey "smart" lightbulbs, Nest thermostats and power tool batteries has been arrested on federal charges.
Justin Farinato, 39, of Groveland, was taken into custody on a federal warrant Friday, charged with interstate transportation of stolen goods, court papers say. He was set to make his initial court appearance Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Boston.
An FBI investigator says in an affidavit filed in the case that Farinato was stealing the bulbs and other items from home improvement stores, then selling them to a Salem business that sold those and similar items on eBay and Amazon. That business and its owner were not identified in court papers.
According to an affidavit filed in the case, Home Depot's security department went to the FBI in 2018, after years of attempting to thwart Farinato, whom they suspected of thefts dating back to 2014. The chain had banned him from their stores in 2016 and in 2018, but he continued showing up at various New England locations.
Store security quickly recognized Farinato when he allegedly came and went from a Londonderry, New Hampshire, Home Depot three times on the morning of July 25, 2018, court papers say. They watched as he pulled numerous boxes of Phillips Hue lightbulbs from a shelf, carried them to another aisle, then removed some of them from their boxes and put them into various pockets of his cargo shorts, court papers say.
Farinato then climbed into a bay inside the store, where he dumped the boxes, then walked out of the store with the bulbs. He then returned, investigators said, two more times that morning and took more bulbs out of the boxes he had stashed in the bay.
The bulbs, which can be programmed to change color, dim or turn on and off via a "smart home" app, are pricey, coming in at just under $50 each; Farinato allegedly also took a "starter kit" worth nearly $200.
The total loss to that store on just that morning was more than $2,100. Farinato allegedly drove straight to Salem, then to an Eastern Bank branch in Danvers, where he cashed a check for $160.
Later that day, Farinato returned to the Salem business, carrying a bag that appeared to be full; he left with an empty, rolled-up bag.
Early the next morning, Home Depot security was following Farinato as he traveled to their Plaistow, New Hampshire, store, where he again went to the smart bulbs display, took multiple boxes, and walked to another aisle, where he opened some, filled his pockets and hid the boxes behind other merchandise. He returned to the store about 20 minutes later to retrieve the bulbs he had hidden.
That day, he would receive and cash a check for $750; the next day he cashed two more checks.
Farinato was arrested by Natick police in December 2018, after an employee spotted him taking bulbs out of boxes in the Home Depot there. He was caught after a brief foot chase.
Home Depot told law enforcement that Farinato had stolen or attempted to steal items from their stores at least 25 times in 2018 alone.
The owner of the Salem business was questioned. He told investigators that Farinato, who had also sold him batteries and Nest thermostats, claimed that the items had been returned to the stores and could not be resold there.
Between 2014 and last year, the business had paid Farinato more than $397,000 for items which it then resold on eBay and Amazon.
In 2018 alone, Farinato was paid nearly $131,000 by the Salem business, which sold thousands of Phillips Hue bulbs on eBay, nearly all of them provided by Farinato, the owner told the FBI.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.