SAN FRANCISCO—On Monday, December 20, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced arrest warrants for 5 people and 2 criminal indictments as part of an extensive two-and-a-half-year organized retail theft investigation led by the District Attorney’s Office. Operation Focus Lens, follows an investigation into a series of thefts at Macy’s that led investigators to the uncovering of a major, organized retail theft ring with international ties.

The multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional operation already 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 District Attorney Chesa Boudin.  “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.”

Operation Focus Lens, led by San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Lieutenant Alex Nocon, developed out of an investigation into a series of thefts at Macy’s in Union Square in December 2019. Rodolfo Castillo—one of the people arrested in connection had been spotted stealing a total of over $7,500 of merchandise, including a shipping box full of shoes and a rack full of clothing, over the course of three separate occasions.

After his arrest, he admitted to stealing merchandise to sell to the owners of Camera Haven, a front for reselling stolen clothing. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and the San Francisco Police Department 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.

The investigation of Tran and Xie led investigators to partner with the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Department of Homeland Security to identify an internal fencer, Nate Pham, who is based out of Vietnam. An arrest warrant for Pham has been issued.

San Francisco Division Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Rafael Nunez, explained that, “Postal Inspectors worked closely with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and our partners in law enforcement to arrest and prosecute those individuals responsible for theft and fraud schemes committed against businesses.”

Operation Focus Lens led to the discovery and dismantling of another organized retail fence being operated out of a store front, Fashion Exchange. In August 2021, Assistant District Attorney Conrad del Rosario secured indictments for possession of stolen property at the Criminal Grand Jury for Fashion Exchange owners Deanna Klinkovich and Floriya Pavlichenko. This case is currently pending before the San Francisco Superior Court.

The SFDA’s Office created Operation Focus Lens in 2019 as part of the multi-jurisdictional Organized Retail Taskforce, which includes the California Highway Patrol Retail Crime Task Force, the San Francisco Police Department, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and Homeland Security Investigations. Operation Focus Lens received additional assistance from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, BART, Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), the California Department of Justice, the Palo Alto Police Department, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office, the Santa Clara Police Department, the Walnut Creek Police Department, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Western States Information Network (WSIN).

“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 Kevin Domby, Lieutenant, California Highway Patrol. “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.”

Operation Focus Lens materialized out of Operation Wrecking Ball, an investigation into the retail theft and sale of stolen merchandise at the 7th and Market Street area. Through Operation Wrecking Ball, the SFDA’s Office recovered nearly $750,000 in stolen merchandise from Bay Area retailers. Operation Wrecking Ball remains an ongoing investigation in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. In December 2021, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office arrested Rodolfo Ivan Urbina Osejo for possession of stolen property in connection with Operation Wrecking Ball.  Two arrest warrants remain outstanding.

In addition to Operation Focus Lens and Operation Wrecking Ball, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office is working with state and federal agencies on half a dozen other confidential investigations to identify and dismantle the organized retail theft fencers who make retail theft crimes profitable.