SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A pair of criminal indictments along with arrest warrants for five people have been issued as part of a two-year investigation into organized retail theft, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced Monday.
In a press release, Boudin said district attorney’s office began the operation, known as Operation Focus Lens, in December 2019 following a series of thefts at the Union Square Macy’s that led the discovery of a major, organized retail theft ring with international ties.READ MORE: UPDATE: Suspect In Attempted Armed Carjacking Killed In Shootout With San Jose Police
The multi-jurisdictional law enforcement action has led to the recovery of approximately $2 million in suspected stolen property and the identification and indictment of two individuals, arrests of two suspects, and three outstanding arrest warrants for multiple charges of organized retail theft, grand theft, possession of stolen property, and money laundering.
“My office is committed to combatting organized retail theft by targeting the source: the fencers who are profiting from the reselling of stolen goods. I am proud of our office’s leadership in uncovering this global operation,” said Boudin in a prepared statement. “I am also thankful to the many law enforcement agencies who partnered with us and helped us successfully recover stolen goods and identify individuals responsible for driving organized retail thefts in San Francisco.”
According to the DA’s office, Rodolfo Castillo – one of those arrested in connection with the investigation – had been observed stealing a total of over $7,500 of merchandise, including a shipping box full of shoes and a rack full of clothing, in three separate incidents. Following his arrest, he admitted to stealing merchandise to sell to the owners of Camera Haven, a front for reselling stolen clothing.READ MORE: Marin Brewing Company Shutting Down After 3 Decades Due To Pandemic Struggles
The DA’s office and the San Francisco Police Department then began monitoring the owners of Camera Haven, David Tran and Yanxia Xie, and determined that they were selling stolen goods through their storefront, flea markets, and overseas. An internal fencer, Nate Pham, was identified who is based out of Vietnam, and an arrest warrant was issued for Pham.
A second organized retail fence ring was identified as being operated out of a storefront, Fashion Exchange. In August, the DA’s office obtained indictments for possession of stolen property for Fashion Exchange owners Deanna Klinkovich and Floriya Pavlichenko. Their case is pending before the San Francisco Superior Court.
“The arrest and charging of these suspects demonstrates the results of a long term, extensive, collaborative investigation by the multi-agency Organized Retail Crime Task Force consisting of the California Highway Patrol, San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the San Francisco Police Department into organized retail crime and organized vehicle burglary. Organized retail crime needs an organized, collaborative response like the multi-agency ORCTF utilizing CHP statewide resources as these groups are not bound by city and county limits,” said CHP Lt. Kevin Domby in a prepared statement. “The vast amount of recovered stolen property and now arrests from Operation Focus Lens, an operation that began in 2019 ensures those directing and benefiting the most from these crimes will now be held to answer.”MORE NEWS: Queen Of The Valley Hospital Workers Stage Picket Over Pandemic Staffing, Pay Issues
Operation Focus Lens emerged out of another investigation dubbed Operation Wrecking Ball, which was a probe into the theft and sale of stolen merchandise at the 7th and Market Street area. According to the DA’s office, Operation Wrecking Ball resulted in the recovery of nearly $750,000 in stolen merchandise from Bay Area retailers. Earlier this month, Rodolfo Ivan Urbina Osejo was arrested for possession of stolen property in connection with Operation Wrecking Ball. Two arrest warrants remain outstanding.