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The bust was the culmination of a two-month-long effort by a property crime task force put together by Honolulu Police Chief Boisse Correa. The team's work led to 25 arrests and the recovery of 475 stolen items worth an estimated $250,000, police said yesterday.
But the officers are not done. Dozens more could face charges in the continuing investigation, police said.
Police said the suspects struck all areas of Oahu, mostly sticking to burglarizing homes and stealing cars from garages, sometimes in daylight.
"If they were caught on the property, they would pose as if they were landscapers," said Acting Detective Clem Enoka III. He described them as "brazen, skilled criminals."
Enoka's detective work helped break the case, police officials said. He had been investigating property crimes in East Honolulu in August and found that they shared many similarities, including suspects who were posing as maintenance workers or landscapers.
During his investigation he found a signed hotel receipt in a stolen car, helping police link the burglaries to the hotel parties.
With that information, the property crime task force began focusing on the key players, arresting them wherever possible and interrogating them to find out how they were getting money to finance their activities. Eventually, their investigation led to A-1 Pawn Shop owner Quang "John" Pham. Detectives said Pham was the main fence for the burglary ring.
"Most of the stuff he was dealing with was stolen goods," Huber said.
Police began a sting operation at A-1 Pawn Shop on Nov. 15, establishing a relationship with Pham by selling "stolen" items from HPD's own evidence room. After multiple sales, police arrested Pham and raided his shop on Dec. 7, seizing about 240 items, including digital cameras, jade pendants, gold jewelry, loose diamonds and collectible coins -- all believed to have been stolen.
Pham, who has since been charged with three counts of second-degree attempted theft, has been released on $50,000 bail.
Police also released the names of others charged for a variety of offenses in this case, including robbery, theft, auto theft, burglary, drugs and firearms. They include Alfred Fernandez, Alfredo LaFuente, Benjie Dimapilis, Joseph Academia, Marlon Flores, Melanie Ganiron, Roy Tacata, Ruben Ganibe, Sherwin Diaz and Salvador Sevidal.
Correa said most of those charged in this case face an average of $50,000 bail. So far, the city prosecutor's office has accepted 68 cases connected to the burglary investigation, and 20 are under review for potential charges.
"I'm fascinated with the description of how these people live," said City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle. "They would burglarize, they would then rent probably an upscale hotel room, they would (use) drugs and party all night long.
"These people are poster child(ren) for property criminals who ought to go to jail, so this is a great job by the Police Department."
Police have identified about 37 people and businesses as property crime victims during the course of their investigation hailing from all parts of Oahu, and said that some cases date back to late last year.
Police said any theft, burglary or car break-in victims who filed a police report prior to Dec. 13 should call the detective assigned to their case for further information. Any photos, receipts, drawings or descriptions of their stolen items will help police in the return process.
Correa said the bust is a "big one" for the department, and described it as an effort by investigators who focus on the criminal as well as the crime.
"The investigation does not stop at the time of the arrest," Correa said yesterday at a press conference. "Some people are going to have a good Christmas gift by getting some of their property back."
Items that cannot be returned by police will be posted for public viewing on HPD's Web site, www.honolulupd.org, in January.