South Bay News

5 charged in largest computer chip heist in local history

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

There was a major announcement Wednesday involving the largest computer chip robbery in Bay Area history. A high-tech crime task force under the direction of the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office says five people have been arrested and charged in a $37 million violent takeover robbery which happened on Feb. 27 at Unigen, Inc in Fremont.

District Attorney Jeff Rosen revealed the heist impacted some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley. Rosen says, "The chips were manufactured by Intel, sent to Unigen to be modified and the end user was Google, and so those companies are very pleased we were able to recover that property."

The investigative team is not saying much about the suspects because they are still looking for about 10 people involved in the crime. The Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) director Michael Sterner says if convicted on all charges, the defendants could face life in prison. Sterner says the workers of Unigen feared for their life. He says, "They were accosted at gunpoint, they were bound, they were moved against their will to another location and they were kept there for quite some time."

The combined resources of a number of police departments and agencies, including the FBI and Homeland Security, worked on the investigation which resulted in the arrest of five men, four from San Jose and one from Union City. In addition, the task force recovered 98 percent of the stolen chips which were being stored at an undisclosed location in the Bay Area. The rest apparently made their way to Asia.

The district attorney says in Silicon Valley, computer chips are a profitable target. "They didn't choose to rob a bank where they could have gotten maybe $10 or $15 million tops, they want after computer chips which is really where the value in our community is."

Rosen praised the efforts of the task force and made a point of noting that funding for this valuable resource is in jeopardy. Five high-tech crime task forces in California including the Bay Area's REACT are funded through the state's Vehicle Licensing Fee which is set to expire June 30.

Rosen says REACT gets $2 million a year, and "In this case, $37 million worth of computer chips were recovered and I think that is a pretty good return on investment for taxpayers."

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Tags:
silicon valley, crime, intel, google, south bay news, karina rusk
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