Thirty-two suspected gang members were charged on suspicion of committing a “high-tech crime,” which involved hacking into credit card terminals in dental and medical offices, and stealing patient identities, the California Department of Justice announced Monday.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a news conference in Sacramento the gangs, known as the BullyBoys and CoCo Boys, teamed up to steal at least 40 credit card terminals, which he called the “modern cash register.” The terminals — which are used to process credit and debit card payments — were burglarized and hacked to process $1 million in fraudulent returns.
“This is big money,” Becerra said.
The funds from the fraudulent returns were placed on debit cards and pocketed by the alleged gang members, Becerra said. Some of the debit cards were opened with stolen identities.
“But remember here as well, dentists and doctors, it’s not just about money,” Becerra said. “Very personal and confidential information has now been leaked to people who probably don’t give a darn about who you are and will use whatever information they can.”
About six businesses in Sacramento County were broken into, said Deputy Attorney General Tawnya Austin. Eight people have come forward to say their identities were stolen but “hundreds of people’s identities have been violated,” Austin said.
Businesses in Vacaville and Walnut Creek were also affected.
Multiple police departments, including the Sacramento Police Department, participated in the investigation. The gangs predominantly operate in the Bay Area and Chief Daniel Hahn said he did not know of any BullyBoys or CoCo Boys activity in Sacramento, but it’s not uncommon for gangs to move throughout the state as they expand their criminal activity.
“They’re not operating necessarily in our neighborhoods but all it takes is a dentist or doctor’s office; all you have to do is jump off the freeway and break-in,” Hahn said.
The investigation started in February 2016 and focused on a series of burglaries and credit card schemes in 13 counties across the state, according to the indictment. Investigators who were familiar with the gangs identified the suspects as gang members by tracking their social media posts, Austin said.
“Gangsters often betray kind of the fact that they’re involved because of postings of them with weapons or things that they may brag about,” she said.
Thirty-two suspected gang members are included in the 240-count indictment, which includes charges of conspiracy to commit grand theft, hacking, computer access and fraud, grand theft, burglary and identity theft.
Twenty-five are in custody and seven are fugitives, Austin said. Arraignments began in Sacramento Superior Court last week.
Molly Sullivan: 916-321-1176, @SullivanMollyM