Interim San Francisco District Attorney Suzy Loftus on Thursday announced the recovery of more than $2 million worth of stolen goods--recovered from what she said was a sophisticated criminal fencing organization.
The operation, called "Operation Focus Lens," involved several law enforcement agencies and resulted in 30 warrants served in San Francisco this week. According to Loftus, the merchandise was either stolen during auto burglaries, or taken directly from retail stores and then sold for cash.
"This is unprecedented in the level of collaboration, and also frankly, the amount we recovered confirms a lot of why we think property crime is on the rise," she said.
As part of the fencing ring, electronics like laptops, smartphones and tablets that were taken during auto burglaries were allegedly then taken to an "electronic chop shop" where they were then disassembled for parts and sold on the internet.
Additionally, Loftus said, "Cameras, laptops, designer clothing... and other items were stolen from stores and the barcodes were actually scratched off." She added, "What has been seized definitely signals that we are dealing with organized crime."
For the operation, the District Attorney's Office collaborated not only with San Francisco police, but also the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service and BART police.
"I hope that criminals are starting to take this seriously," said CHP Golden Gate Division Chief Ernie Sanchez. "We will continue to place dots and lines between those dots to identify who those organized crime members are and we'll continue to work with the D.A. to prosecute and to bring those people to justice," he said.
Now left with a cache of stolen goods on their hands, police and prosecutors are seeking ways to return the merchandise to its rightful owners.
"Returning valuables back to the people who they really belong to is really important to us," said Police Chief Bill Scott. "We have people coming from all over the world here, and it really sickens me when people come to visit our great city and they get victimized. They get their things stolen; their passports, their cash, their cellphones with all their memories in it, wedding rings," he said.
According to Loftus, the operation is still ongoing and details, like the names of those arrested, haven't been released. Prosecutors are encouraging anyone who may have had property like a laptop, cellphone or tablet stolen in the city, and is able to produce a serial number for the item, to call their hotline at 628-652-4343.