By Karen Freifeld
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A computer-savvy thief won't be on the street for Apple Inc's next big product launch.
Shaheed Bilal, 29, was sentenced to 4-1/2 to nine years behind bars for running a cybercrime ring that created counterfeit credit cards and then used them in Apple Inc stores across the country.
The ring, which also included Bilal's brothers and girlfriend, purchased more than $1 million worth of iPads, iPhones and MacBooks over 2-1/2 years starting in 2008, and sold them to dealers in stolen goods in Brooklyn, New York.
They purchased credit card numbers online, probably from traffickers in Eastern Europe, according to a joint investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney and the United States Secret Service.
Bilal, who was sentenced on Thursday in New York state court in Manhattan, pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the second degree in April. If he had been convicted at trial, he could have faced up to 15 years in prison.
Bilal's brothers, Ali, 25, Isaac, 27, and Rahim, 23, recruited the shoppers, the prosecutors said. His girlfriend, Ophelia Alleyne, 31, handled day-to-day operations in 2010, when Bilal was jailed in another case.
"This criminal organization was truly a family affair," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.
Ali and Rahim Bilal have both pleaded guilty and were previously sentenced to one to three years and two to six years, respectively. Alleyne, who has also pleaded guilty, was sentenced to four to 12 years.
All told, 16 people have been convicted in the case, according to prosecutors. Seven have charges still pending, including Isaac Bilal.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)