An AirTags Stalking Sting Operation

A man allegedly involved in a Russia-based smuggling operation is accused of placing at least seven AirTags on his ex-wife's car to surveil her.
An AirTags Stalking Sting Operation
Unsplash / Photos via court records

This article was produced in collaboration with Court Watch, an independent outlet that unearths overlooked court records.

An alleged member of a Russia-based human smuggling network used Apple AirTags to stalk his wife, according to court documents and a recently-unsealed federal indictment. 

Ibodullo Muhiddinov Numanovich likely smuggled his now ex-wife, identified as “S.K.” in court records, into the U.S. through a Russian human smuggling network that he works for, according to federal prosecutors. 

He was indicted in May on one count of stalking, “with the intent to injure, harass, intimidate, and place under surveillance with the intent to injure, harass, and intimidate” his ex-wife, including sending threatening voicemails, placing her under surveillance, and causing her to fear for her life, according to the recently unsealed indictment.

According to the court records:

“Beginning shortly after their marriage, the Defendant began to physically and emotionally abuse S.K. and to record multiple sexually explicit videos of S.K. The Defendant threatened to release the images and videos if S.K. did not do as the Defendant demanded. At the time of their marriage, S.K. had recently arrived from Tajikistan, by way of Mexico, and did not have any other family or support in the United States.” 

Over the course of several weeks in March and April, Numanovich allegedly placed seven AirTags on a vehicle S.K. used. She found the first one, and the investigators found the next six. Investigators allege that Numanovich placed the AirTags on S.K.’s car to surveil and stalk her, and hid them all over the vehicle, including taped under the front bumper, in the wheel wells, inside the frame, and in the side mirror casing. 

Once investigators knew Numanovich was continually placing the tags on the car, the FBI used them in sting operations to watch him either check on the tags, or find and place another. In one instance, after the FBI disabled an AirTag he’d placed, Numanovich called S.K. and followed her to a carwash, then “banged on her windows, and demanded to know why S.K. was not answering his calls. S.K. was paralyzed with fear by the Defendant’s actions,” the records state. The FBI deactivated the AirTag at a specific location in Philadelphia and later that day watched him come to that location, exit his vehicle with his phone, and start looking for the AirTag. The investigators received records from Apple that linked Numanovich’s Apple account to the AirTag. 

AirTags have been a tool for stalkers and domestic abusers since Apple launched them in 2021. Police records show that this is a problem, and the legal system has failed women who were targeted by stalkers using AirTags. There have been several instances where AirTag stalking has turned violent, and in at least two cases, resulted in the tracker murdering their target.

After Numanovich was indicted and a search warrant was executed, investigators found a folder in his phone with around “140 sexually explicit photographs and videos of S.K.”

The government’s motion for pretrial detention states that he “has access to substantial financial resources and is believed to be involved in a largescale human smuggling network in connection with a transnational organized crime network.” The judge approved the motion. Bank records revealed through the investigation that in seven months in 2022, a bank account Numanovich operated made transfers totaling more than $2.3 million, another account conducted approximately $2.2 million in transactions in just three months in 2023, and a third account showed around $74,000 in deposits and $64,872 in withdrawals in one-month at the end of 2022. Bank wire records showed tens of thousands more in funds moving to and from Numanovich’s accounts, according to investigators.

Numanovich pleaded not guilty, and a jury trial is set to begin on June 8.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.