SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A massive fencing operation, including a chop shop to dismantle stolen electronic equipment, has been busted in San Francisco and more than $2.5 million of stolen loot recovered, officials announced Thursday.
Called ‘Operation Focus Lens,’ the crackdown on the operation involved over 100 officers from state, local and federal law enforcement officers who served 30 warrants in the Bay Area. Several arrests were made, but those details were yet to be released.
Acting San Francisco District Attorney Suzy Loftus said the operation was fueling car break-ins, home burglaries, BART robberies and merchandise theft from major San Francisco retail stores.
“What creates an incentive to break into cars and to break into homes is if you can quickly turn whatever you stole into money,” she said. “A fencing operation makes that possible. It really fuels the property crime that we are seeing here in San Francisco.
The loot recovered covers a large range from Gucci bags stolen from Union Street retailers, to cell phones, cameras and other merchandise from electronic stores, to laptops taken from a student’s ripped-off backpack.
So much stolen property was recovered that authorities were still inventorying it.
Officers also raided a storage facility that belonged to a suspect and found further property, including approximately $750,000 worth of tagged clothing items that came from retail stores.
Loftus said U.S. Postal inspectors played a key role in identifying the suspected fencing gang.
“The suspected fencing operation, actually one of the ways we confirmed that they might be doing something was the number of packages that were coming form this location and going out of state.”
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott called the bust a major breakthrough for the city which has been plagued by auto break-ins.
“This a huge deal for our city,” he said.
“We have people coming from all over the world,” Scott continued. “It really sickens me when people come here to visit our great city and they get victimized. They get their things stolen — their passports, their cash, their cell phones, wedding rings — we had the gamut. It breaks your heart.”
Loftus said the operation was still ongoing.
Victims of cell phone or laptop robbery can call a hotline and report the International Mobile Equipment Identity, or IMEI, number of their stolen property, which can often be found through cloud services. This allows stolen property to be returned to victims and could aid ongoing investigations. The number is #1-628-652-4343.