SAN FRANCISCO—More than a dozen people have been charged for their involvement in a shoplifting ring that targeted high-end stores throughout San Francisco’s Union Square and accumulated millions of dollars in losses.
The ‘Rainbow Crew’—dubbed for the bright colored clothing they wore while carrying out Union Square robberies—was busted in a coordinated effort between the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and Crime Strategies Unit, which works to analyze and identify links between individual crimes.
The indictment, which was filed on Monday, October 3, names 16 defendants that authorities allege are linked to dozens of thefts in San Francisco that date back to April 2015. Local authorities are also providing the district attorney’s office with information that will lead to the prosecution of another 10 individuals for their connection to the ring and involvement in crimes throughout other jurisdictions, including: San Jose, Houston, Dallas, Honolulu, Seattle and Los Angeles.
Some of those linked to crimes in other cities are individually responsible for as much as $1 million to $2 million in losses, noted Lt. Valerie Matthews, Head of Investigations for Central Station.
“A lot of times it can be violent, it can be scary for employees, and the loss is just tremendous,” said Matthews.
The case is being prosecuted by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, who is warning potential copy-cats to stay away.
“If you’re intending to commit a crime in the Union Square area – don’t” said Gascon in a press release.
Union Square is equipped with a network of more than 300 high-definition surveillance cameras that aided in the indictment. “These are high def cameras. You can see facial features, license plates from a distance,” said Wes Tyler of the Union Square Business Improvement District in a statement.
Surveilance footage released by the San Francisco Police Department in 2015 depicts members of the ‘Rainbow Crew’ ransacking an Ulta beauty supply store, located on Geary and Masonic. They bandits rush in, steal high-ticketed items and rush out—totaling just 75 seconds.
“They started to use pepper spray on the people that worked in the stores,” said San Francisco prosecutor Frank Carrubba. “They would ask to have cases opened and then push them out of the way. And they’d grab high dollar items, [put] them in bags, and run out the door.”
Amid several robberies throughout Union Square, the group made off with: $64,000 in merchandise from Ferragamo; $17,000 from Sunglass Hut; $7,800 from Louis Vuitton; $10,000 from Burberry; and $48,000 from Christian Dior, according to reports.
The defendants face charges that included robbery, burglary, grand theft and conspiracy.