Five of 21 alleged members of an Oakland-based gang were arraigned in San Jose on Monday in a car burglary ring that has struck across the Bay Area.
A grand jury indicted 21 suspects on 72 counts for more than 50 "sophisticated" car break-ins in San Jose, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View and other cities, prosecutors said.
Deante Menefee, 27, Sitteruiet Taylor, 36, Lamont Williams, 26, Exrill Wilson 32, and Andrew Peacock were arraigned this afternoon at the Hall of Justice. They pleaded not guilty today and were scheduled for trial on Jan. 19.
The five defendants remain in custody on more than $1 million bail.
All the suspects are believed to be members or associates of the "Ghost Town Gang," a violent Oakland-based group that has been associated with several homicides and assaults, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Sandip Patel said.
It appeared the gang followed a route throughout the Bay Area targeting shopping centers, including Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto and McCarthy Ranch Marketplace in Milpitas, according to Patel.
They allegedly rented cars and roamed through mall parking lots, where they targeted certain cars that they broke into in small groups, according to prosecutors.
They allegedly burglarized multiple cars and in many cases used a window breaking tool to enter the vehicles, Patel said.
The suspects allegedly stole from the vehicles hundreds of iPads, iPhones, laptops and other electronics that were easy to resell, prosecutors said.
Fremont police lead an investigation with other law enforcement agencies after noticing an uptick in car burglaries throughout the Bay Area that led to the indictment, Patel said.
The suspects face felony vehicular burglary charges with gang allegations that can lead to state prison sentences, prosecutors said.
"What's exceptional here is the brazenness of their scheme and the scope of the conduct involved -- there's hardly a city in the entire Bay Area that this group didn't hit," Patel said in a statement.
Menefee's attorney Robert Byers said the case is "extremely complex" and the indictment includes 250 pages listing the charges.
Byers said he hasn't seen evidence that all the defendants
interacted with one another.
The other suspects in-custody were identified as Steven Espadron, 32, Jawon Finch, 30, Danny Garcia, 31, Joey Haines, 31, Michael Jones, 23, Ricky Joseph, 27, Eddie Nute, 21, Lamont Williams, 26, and Exrill Wilson 32, prosecutors said.
Other law enforcement agencies that assisted in the investigation include the Fremont, East Bay Regional Parks, Pinole, San Mateo and San Francisco police departments.
Garcia has also been charged with attempted murder on a Santa Clara police officer earlier this year, according to prosecutors.
On Feb. 9, Garcia allegedly drove away from the officer who was attempting to pull him over for an auto burglary in Santa Clara and continued to Sunnyvale, according to Sunnyvale police.
Garcia briefly came to a stop before he allegedly drove at the officer, who fired at the suspect, according to Sunnyvale police.
The 31-year-old fled and later went to San Francisco General Hospital to be treated for a gunshot wound before he was taken into custody, police said.
Jones has pleaded not guilty to the July 2 armed robbery of two Bay Area television news crews reporting on the homicide of Kathryn Steinle at Pier 14 in San Francisco.