California arrests over chip take-away

Seventeen suspects have been indicted for armed robbery in connection with America's biggest known theft of computer chips, a haul more valuable than guns, heroin or gold. California prosecutors linked the suspects to Asian organised crime gangs, who have been blamed for masterminding a spate of US raids.

The 17 were charged with robbing Centon Electronics in Irvine, California, east of Los Angeles, known as one of the safest cities in America. They escaped with a haul of computer chips and motherboards that was originally valued at $5 million, but later upgraded to double that sum. It was believed to hold the record as the biggest such robbery in the US, a spokesman for Nora Manella, the US Attorney for the central district of California, said.

Two of the suspects were ethnic Chinese, one Cambodian, and fourteen of Vietnamese origin. "All are linked to Asian street gangs, or larger organised crime enterprises," the spokesman said. But there was no indication that the robbery had been ordered by crime syndicates outside the country, as has been suggested in other cases.

About a dozen young men took part in the late evening raid in May 1995, witnesses said, arriving at the door of Centon Electronics smartly dressed in sport coats and ties, in a rental truck and two cars. They forced their way inside at gun point, and forced employees to lie face down on the ground. No-one was hurt.

They carried off boxes of computer chips varying from one to 30 megabytes. With the chips valued at the time at up to $1,200 a piece, they were worth more than gold by weight. Since the raid, 53 others, as well as these 17, have been arrested on suspicion of having some kind of connection with the raid.

Most of the chip robberies have taken place in Silicon Valley, to the north, where being held up at gunpoint became a hazard of life for some executives. A joint task force from Washington, Oregon and California, the three West Coast states, was set up to break the silicon trade.

Stolen electronic components enter what is called a "grey market". Manufacturers chasing chips in short supply turn to independent middle men with few questions asked. Companies in both Britain and the US have been targeted.

When the phenomenon first raised its head, firms were often reluctant to release details of their losses, and many were suspected of being inside jobs. But as Asian gangsters appeared to make the crime their speciality, the US computer industry, allied with the FBI and big insurers, went on the offensive. Firms pooled intelligence and marked serial numbers on the most valuable chips.

In Silicon Valley, more than 500 federal and local law officers took part in a dawn raid last year dubbed Operation West Chips that rounded up more than 50 people, mostly Vietnamese immigrants. Last year 24 suspects in the Centon raid were indicted in San Francisco, and another 20 in San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley. A further nine suspects were indicted earlier this year in Portland, Oregon.

Eleven of the 17 named in Monday's indictment were also charged in connection with a second robbery, in which $400,000 worth of chips were taken.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Sport
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teacher require...

KS1 Teacher

£21500 - £31500 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work...

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style