San Jose Retail Crime Ring Busted

A massive retail crime ring in San Jose, California has been unravelled:

The Le and Vo organizations are accused of buying truckloads of stolen merchandise from crews of freelance shoplifters, repackaging the products and then reselling them throughout the United States at an enormous profit . . . until this week.


The hordes of “booster” thieves are not directly related to the crime organizations. They are independent bandits who hit store after store on a routine basis, stealing a variety of products from Safeway, Target, Walgreen’s, Longs Drugs and Savemart. They might stealthily stuff handfuls of Claritin into their clothes or boldly make off with shopping carts full of items without paying.

They would contact the Vo and Le organizations to “fence” the merchandise, receiving 25 cents on the dollar. The families were not cooperating but acted as “friendly competitors,” according to officers John Barg and Doug Gerbrandt, the lead case agents.

Nearly $6 million in stolen property was recovered following arrests along with over $100,000 in cash and luxury goods. Interesting to see that the investigation found human elements to trace and ultimately use to pull the criminals down. In short, they managed to infiltrate the crime organization by impersonating one of the booster thieves. Although there are several comments of how “sophisticated” the operations were, no technology at all (ID tags, camera surveillance, etc) is mentioned. I guess that means they were sophisticated in the sense of a regular retailer’s operational sophistication, which sadly is not usually saying a lot about security. I mean to say, the criminals were probably infiltrated by police investigators as easily as retailers were infiltrated by criminals.

Phone stolen, texting used to ensare victims

The Mercury News reports on a surprising new attack vector based on mobile phones:

Four males allegedly affiliated with the “500 Block,” a South San Francisco Norteño street gang, allegedly assaulted and robbed the first victim in San Bruno over the weekend. They then used the phone to send a text message to lure the first victim’s friend to a meeting place to rob him of his Apple i-Phone, valued at $400, according to police.

At about 2 a.m. Saturday, a San Bruno resident received a text message from a friend’s cell phone to meet in a South San Francisco business in the 200 block of El Camino Real, according to police. He was immediately assaulted and robbed, police report.

Do you trust your friends to lock their phones from intruders? Or, perhaps more importantly, can you identify your friends when they text you from their phones, given the limited format? Perhaps a voice call would be a good way to verify meetings in shady places.

GTA4 Police

The Onion presents a humorous look at law enforcement in Grand Theft Auto IV:

“The police just let them go, and 20 minutes later they’re shooting at the very same criminals from helicopters,” veteran crime reporter Mike Whiteley said. “That is not proper law enforcement. We may be seeing a return to the bad old days of 2002, when the police, the FIB, and even Army tank battalions would leave countless bodies on the streets while attempting to capture just one man on some sort of joyful mass-destruction spree.”

That sums up the whole game nicely.

Perhaps even more alarming, city records indicate that more than 75 percent of perpetrators in mass-murder or vehicular-manslaughter cases escape, usually by simple methods such as driving into a car-repainting facility. Criminals have even eluded pursuit by walking into their apartment and going to bed for six hours, after which the search has been called off.

However, one LCPD official, who wished to remain anonymous, blamed the recent crime wave on the police department’s lack of proper equipment.

“We are only equipped to pursue a suspect within a small radius on a very basic half-centimeter radar screen,” the officer said. “If we were allowed to seek criminals who escaped this radius for more than 15 seconds, our results would improve dramatically.”

Oh, it always comes down to a question of technology. Lack of proper equipment? If you have ever played the game, you might note that it can actually be hard to evade the police until you learn how to make their use of the limited radius. They could use their radius more effectively, but the game would become too hard. Likewise, the game’s engine seems to let the police get stuck whenever they drive into a park (they can’t seem to figure out how to drive out). But even those flaws in the search and arrest procedure is nothing compared to the lame legal system.

Many blame the LCPD directly for the increase in criminal activity, citing the department’s lax procedure for arresting criminals, which involves taking 10 percent of the suspect’s money, confiscating his weapons, and simply releasing him from custody later that day. Outraged citizens say this is not enough, especially in a city where assault rifles can be found on factory roofs and grenade caches are located under the globe at the old World’s Fair site.

Ha, ha, exactly. Get rid of the weapons and rehabilitate the offenders. But who would want to play in a world with real accountability?

The escalating cost of breaches

The BNY Mellon breach story keeps getting bigger:

Ponemon Institute estimated that in 2007 companies spent an average of $197 per record following a data breach, which would put BNY Mellon’s price tag for this boondoggle at $886 million. But, in the wake of the breach that affected hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has pushed BNY Mellon to increase its credit monitoring guarantee from one to two years and provide $25k in identity theft insurance with no deductible. And even that’s not enough for plaintiff’s attorneys, who are clamoring for BNY Mellon and People’s Bank, the Connecticut institution that had the largest number of affected customers in the breach, to spring for seven years of identity theft protection.

I hate to say it but what is to stop companies from saving cash just to pay insurance and identity theft protection post-incident? Is the cost of prevention higher? If so, then keeping cash liquid instead of investing in identity theft prevention will be hard to argue against.