Charges have been brought against five men who were arrested in connection with the theft of $37 million worth of computer chips from a Fremont high-tech company in February, the biggest robbery of its kind in Bay Area history, officials said today. Armed with handguns and rifles, several men wearing masks and dark clothing took over Unigen Corp. on the morning of Feb. 27, where they bound five Unigen employees at gunpoint and forced them into a backroom, police officials said. The men then began raiding computer chips and loading them into a large truck. The employees were not injured and were able to remove the restraints to call police afterward.
As part of its investigation, Fremont police enlisted the help of the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team, or REACT, a high-tech crimes unit of the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. The investigation led to the recovery of nearly 1.5 million — or 98 percent — of the stolen chips locally and in Asia. At a news conference in San Jose this morning, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said the chips were targeted for their value. “It just illustrates this stuff is really valuable, and that’s where the money is,” Rosen said. Michael Sterner, director of REACT, said the case was unique for a number of reasons, among them the sheer size of the robbery and because computer chip robberies have waned since the mid-1990s. He said the chips are worth an average of $22 each.
The five men who were arrested are Jesus Meraz Jr., 25; Dylan Catayas Lee, 32; Rolando McKay Secreto, 38; Leonard Abriam, 31; and Pierre Ramos, 28. The arrests were made over a period of time, with the last arrest occurring on Thursday. Ramos, a resident of Union City, was booked in Alameda County, while the others, who are all from San Jose, were booked in Santa Clara County. The men have been charged with armed robbery and kidnapping for robbery, with an enhancement of excessive taking of property, charges that carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Several agencies assisted REACT in the investigation, among them the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. REACT receives $2 million in funding from a vehicle licensing fee legislation, which is due to expire in June. With the expiration of the legislation, REACT would lose funding. Rosen said losing the unit would be “extremely troubling.” “I’d be very concerned about future robberies of that sort,” he said. Unigen Corp. is a silicon and modules design and manufacturing company located at 45388 Warm Springs Road.
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