SAN MATEO -- Five San Jose residents were arrested this week in connection with alleged counterfeiting and drug offenses that unraveled when some of the suspects tried to spend phony gift cards in San Mateo, authorities said.
The scheme first surfaced Wednesday after San Mateo police were called to a business in the 500 block of East Fourth Avenue after getting reports of a "suspicious transaction" involving gift cards. Officers found the alleged culprits as they sat in a nearby car and arrested 55-year-old Willie Lozano and 32-year-old Phong Le, both of San Jose, after discovering they had active warrants.
Inside the car, police said they found fake gift cards, unspecified evidence linking them to identity theft, and more than 10 pounds of marijuana. Their investigation led them to identify San Jose resident Charles Ryan Angeles, 31, as another suspect.
San Mateo detectives enlisted the help of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Secret Service to help examine the items seized from the car. They tracked Angeles to a home in San Jose, where they found phony credit cards and machinery used to make them, along with an assault rifle and high-capacity magazine.
San Mateo narcotics detectives separately investigating the marijuana from the car were also led to San Jose, where they arrested 32-year-old Duy Nguyen and 25-year-old Thao "Tammy" Nguyen after finding them with methamphetamine and a firearm, which Duy Nguyen's felony history barred him from having.
All five suspects were jailed on suspicion of separate counts of conspiracy along with other individual offenses. Lozano was booked into San Mateo County Jail on suspicion of identity theft, alongside Le, who was booked on suspicion of possessing and transporting marijuana for sale. Angeles was booked into the same facility on suspicion of identity theft, multiple counterfeiting offenses, having fake identification, and having a high-capacity assault-rifle magazine.
Duy Nguyen and Thao Nguyen were booked into Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of having methamphetamine for sale, with Duy Nguyen additionally suspected of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.