FREMONT (CBS SF) — Eight suspects were in custody Wednesday and $2 million in property stolen from vehicles in shopping centers along the East Bay Interstate Highway 880 corridor recovered in the bust of an international smuggling ring, authorities said.
Fremont police said Carlos Paz, 28, of San Francisco; Huong Tran, 31, of San Jose; Benjamin Pham, 44, of San Jose; Luan Huynh, 30, of San Jose; Hung On, 51, of San Jose; Cinthia Martinez, 38, of San Francisco; Marvin Paz, 33, of San Francisco and Rony Martinez, 34, of San Francisco were being held on multiple felony counts including conspiracy and possession of stolen property.
Authorities said the investigation began in late 2017 as detectives were conducting follow up to several auto burglaries taking place in commercial shopping centers along the I-880 corridor in Fremont.
Burglaries had jumped 35 percent in the area and several law enforcement agencies intensified their efforts to find the cause.
During an undercover operation in December 2017, property crimes detectives were led to a storage facility in San Jose and while it was under surveillance several suspects were observed loading suspected stolen electronic devices into an overseas shipping container.
Detectives seized and searched the container, discovering more than 900 stolen electronic devices including laptops and tablets with an estimated value of $1 million.
Investigators said the stolen property was intended for shipment to Vietnam.
Further investigation revealed the operation was part of a highly sophisticated multi-million dollar fencing scheme operating in the Bay Area.
Street-level criminal suspects, many of them members of validated street gangs, were found to be breaking and entering parked vehicles in cities throughout the Bay Area to steal laptops, smart phones and tablets.
It was determined that the smuggling/fencing ring was centralized in Santa Clara County.
On January 25, detectives organized a multi-location operation to serve seven search warrants around the Bay Area. With the assistance of United States Customs Airport Division, two of the targets were stopped as they attempted to board a flight to Vietnam.
The two suspects had 18 items of luggage containing more than 300 suspected stolen electronic devices. Detectives recovered an additional 700-plus items of suspected stolen property and arrested seven additional suspects on the day of the operation at the suspect locations.
Investigators said the case remains open and ongoing.