29 alleged gang members plead guilty in $1-million fraud scheme

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PLAYA DEL REY, CA - APRIL 28: California Attorney General Rob Bonta, flanked by his legal team, announced Thursday at Dockweiler State Beach that his office has launched an unprecedented investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries' alleged role in causing and exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis on Thursday, April 28, 2022 in Playa Del Rey, CA. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the guilty plea of more than two dozen gang members this week involved in a $1 million fraud scheme. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

More than two dozen people associated with criminal street gangs face a combined 86 years in prison after pleading guilty in a $1-million fraud scheme, California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta announced Friday.

Toni Coffman, the leader of the scheme, received 13 years and 8 months in prison and was ordered to pay a $861,000 restitution. Coffman and 28 others conspired to defraud victims throughout the state by hacking the credit card terminals and merchant accounts of dozens of medical and dental businesses, officials said.

“Criminal activity targeting merchants and consumers not only takes a financial toll on communities, but it endangers public safety,” Bonta said in a statement. “This sentencing should send a powerful message: Criminal activity will not be tolerated in our state and we will hold those participating in illegal activities accountable.”

The prosecutions come after a multiyear investigation of a series of burglaries tied to a credit card fraud scheme in 13 cities in Northern California, including Walnut Creek, Antioch, San Rafael and Napa, according to state Department of Justice officials. The investigation began in February 2016, after law enforcement officials discovered similarities among the burglaries of credit card terminals in the region.

Members of the Bully Boys and CoCo Boys gangs worked together to burglarize businesses and steal credit card terminals, law enforcement officials alleged. The suspects used the terminals to process returns. But instead of the value of the returns going to the business or customer, it was placed onto a debit card that the suspects then pocketed, officials said. The defendants stole about $1 million, DOJ officials said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.