As Chesa Boudin’s office scrambles to score some public victories ahead of the June recall election, news comes of a major raid involving a boba tea shop used to trade goods stolen in car break-ins in SF, some of which were eventually shipped to Hong Kong and Vietnamese.
The DA’s office has been running “Operation Auto Pilot” for about a year now, with the goal of fighting car break-ins in San Francisco by prosecuting the criminals who en masse fence stolen goods, on behalf of the thieves themselves. A sub-operation, dubbed “Operation Bulldog,” hones in on the Quickly boba tea shop at 709 Larkin Street, and the owner’s husband, 41-year-old Quoc Le.
Detectives used rental cars, in which they placed theft-worthy items with tracking devices, and parked them as bait cars in Japantown. A laptop stolen from one of the bait cars led them to Le, who they say is a “known gate” for stolen property. ‘Using the tracker, the researchers tracked the item back to Mr. Le’s business, a boba tea shop. Over the next few days, they tracked the stolen goods from Mr. Le’s establishment to Fed Ex and tracked it through the delivery process,” Boudin’s office said. explains in a release†
According to court records obtained by the Chronicle, a theft victim participating in the investigation used the “Find My Phone” feature to locate her stolen iPhone in an empty space on Larkin Street that shares a wall with the Quickly store. She later saw the phone move to a FedEx distribution facility in Oakland, and soon it was in Hong Kong. Another victim saw her laptop ping from the Larkin address, and a month later it pinged in Vietnam.
“Car break-ins have been a problem in San Francisco for at least a decade; I have created Operation Auto Pilot to act aggressively against the fencing networks responsible for so much property crime,” Boudin said in a statement. “I commend our Special Investigations team who have worked tirelessly for over a year to establish multiple stabbing operations to track the path of stolen goods, leading to today’s arrest and the recovery of more than 130 file boxes full of stolen electronic goods. devices. We hope this is a strong message to deter anyone who is considering breaking into a car or buying stolen goods: we are watching and you will be held accountable.”
Le was arrested Monday and from storage next to the boba store, investigators reportedly found more than 1,000 “electronics that filled more than 130 archive boxes: laptops, cell phones, tablets, and more.” The DA’s Office now plans to return these devices to their owners.
Le has been indicted on eight felony counts and four felony counts of possession of stolen property, and it sounds like more charges are pending. He was to be arraigned today. Le’s wife, the owner of the Quickly location, has not been charged with any crime.
A separate operation by the OM’s detectives produced a similar result in December, with the raid of a camera repair and resale shop on Larkin Street in Little Saigon, which turned out to be a front for reselling stolen clothing.
The Chronicle notes that the serendipity of this investigation paid off not long after former assistant DA Shirin Oloumi appeared in TV ads in support of Boudin’s recall. Oloumi, who prosecuted car break-ins, says in the ads that Boudin “dissolved” her unit and “prevented me from cooperating with the police”. But staffers at the district attorney’s office shared a suicide note that Oloumi wrote to colleagues at the Chronicle, which apparently praised Operation Auto Pilot, saying, “I will no doubt read about the success of [the operation] soon in the news.”
Hopefully, Le will prove to have been a major linchpin in Bay Area fencing, and someone won’t come right away to fill the void buying this stuff from thieves.
Steven Tull, the chief of detectives at Boudin’s office, points to the fact that one of the victims had stolen a device from a parked car in the distant South Bay, in Morgan Hill. “The fact that a victim from as far as Morgan Hill traced her stolen goods to Mr. Le’s company, along with other confidential information we have obtained, reveals that Mr. Le’s illegal fencing operation not only contained a large amount of stolen goods moved but is geographically widespread,” Tull said in a statement.
Earlier: Tenderloin Camera Shop was the front for retail theft, according to DA’s office