SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — More than 30 people linked with two East Bay gangs have been arrested following an investigation into a $1 million credit card fraud scheme, according to the state attorney general.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Monday that 32 individuals associated with the BullyBoys and the CoCo Boys — two gangs based in the Antioch, Pittsburg, and Bay Point areas — played part in operating a fraud scheme throughout California in which they hacked credit card terminals and merchant accounts of dozens of furniture stores, medical and dental businesses.READ MORE: San Francisco's New Sobering Center Will Provide Drug Addicts A Place To Go For Help
The suspects used stolen terminals to process returns, whose values were then placed onto a debit card for the perpetrators to keep instead of going back to the businesses, according to Becerra.
“It is easier today and it is more rewarding today to engage in identity theft and financial fraud than it is to go out there on the street and commit physical, violent crime,” Becerra said. “It pays more at lower risk.”
Some business owners such as Dennis Tran, the owner of Cost Rite furniture store, had no idea that members of the BullyBoys and CoCo Boys were walking into their stores with a plan to steal credit card terminals from behind counters and desks.
“One of them tried to distract. Second person grabbed terminals and ran away,” said Tran.
At the time of the burglary, Tran did not have a surveillance system in his store, but since then, he has bought eight security cameras. He said he now knows what to look out for if anyone attempts a similar type of crime in the future.READ MORE: Study: Sediment, Tidal Marshes Are Key To Protecting Bay Area From Rising Sea Levels
Becerra also alleged the gangs used the money to fund other illegal activities that are not included in the indictment; one such activity includes buying care packages for inmates inside the California prison system.
The initial investigation began in February 2016 after law enforcement discovered similarities and patterns between credit card terminal and business burglary schemes that tied the BullyBoys and the CoCo Boys to the crimes.
Becerra announced a 240-count indictment against the gang members which includes grand theft, burglary, hacking, computer access and fraud, and identity theft among other charges.
Following the three-year, multi-agency investigation of the fraud scheme that spanned 13 counties in Northern California, approximately 40 stolen credit card terminals were recovered. Dozens of receipts depicting fraudulent returns were located as well.
Agents seized other stolen items, including laptops and personal files detailing social security numbers and bank information.
In the official press briefing, Attorney General Becerra emphasized the importance of business owners taking the necessary precautions to avoid “becoming the target of fraud.”MORE NEWS: COVID Safety: Warriors Officials Give Preview of Chase Center's Pandemic Protocols
“This investigation remarkably demonstrates the increasing level of sophistication by which criminal gangs operate in California. The Western States Information Network (WSIN) was honored to support the coalition of agencies that led this investigation,” said Executive Director of Western States Information, Kent A. Shaw.