Cartons upon cartons of stolen cigarettes were being sold in East Bay convenience stores, as the California Highway Patrol just learned in busting up a fencing operation with well over $100,000 in stolen cigarettes.
It sure appears that cigarettes being sold in some East Bay shops lately were actually stolen cigarettes, and some of them were even stolen out of state. KTVU reports that the local division of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has arrested an Oakland man for allegedly running a $137,000 stolen cigarette ring, an operation the CHP describes as “a sophisticated network involved in the illicit trade of stolen and unregulated tobacco items.”
We see from the photos in the above Monday CHP Facebook post that the confiscated cigarettes were being sold in what appears to be a legitimate corner store or gas station operation. The CHP’s Cargo Theft Interdiction Program (CTIP) does not name the stores involved, only that they arrested 35-year-old Oakland man Bashar Saleh Mohamed Nagi for theft and possession of stolen items.
"These are products these business fronts are selling for massive amount of profits," CHP officer Andrew Barclay said in a statement to KTVU. "Right now they're being processed as evidence to do an investigation as to where they may have come from and things like that so there's still a lot of work being done behind the scenes."
The investigation, which also involved the Oakland PD, Alameda County Sheriff's Office, and California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, got warrants served at what they say were “multiple locations in Oakland.” The CHP describes these locations as “one residence and three store fronts in Oakland,” so it sure seems there were multiple retailers involved, who may or may not have been aware that the cigarettes were stolen.
The CHP said this operation also recovered items allegedly stolen from Old Navy, Safeway, and Target. Though that haul was relatively small potatoes, with the items being valued at “over $5,000.”
Image: CHP - Golden Gate Division via Facebook