A suspected gang member has been charged with stealing FBI gear — including a gun, ammunition, badge, credentials and body armor — from a special agent’s car.
The March 23 indictment comes nearly a year after the equipment was stolen from the agent’s trunk as he went for a morning jog near the FBI’s San Diego headquarters.
Agents were able to track down the suspect within several hours, thanks to the agent’s cellphone signal, according to federal court records unsealed last week.
Hoang Minh Nguyen — who, according to the FBI, is a suspected member of the Asian Crips and has a history of burglary and drug abuse — has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail.
The special agent had parked his FBI-issued car at a trailhead on May 31, 2016, and secured the trunk with a chain and padlock, per FBI policy, according to court records.
When he returned about 40 minutes later, he found the driver’s side front window had been smashed in and the trunk was partially open but still secured by the chain.
The agent’s collapsible baton and a spare ammunition magazine were missing from the driver’s side door storage compartment. From the trunk, three bags filled with gear were missing, apparently squeezed through the opening, according to court records.
Inside the bags were the agent’s Glock Model 22 .40-caliber pistol, two handheld radios from the FBI and Sheriff’s Department, his cellphone, his FBI credentials and gold badge, an FBI access badge, green body armor, an unclassified thumb drive and his U.S. passport.
The agent asked Sprint to locate the cellphone via tower signals. The FBI then asked a federal judge for a warrant to allow the use of a law enforcement device that acts like a cellphone tower to better pinpoint the phone’s location. The data tracked the phone to a home on Worthing Avenue.
By 3 a.m. the next day, FBI agents were standing in the driveway. They called the agent’s cellphone and heard it ring from inside the garage, according to a search warrant affidavit.
Agents and San Diego police served a search warrant at the house several hours later and recovered the agent’s phone on Nguyen’s nightstand in the garage, which he was using as a bedroom, as well as a knife and spotting scope, according to court records.
The gun, badge, armor, radios and other items were not found.
Nguyen, who lived with his parents, told an investigator that nobody had been in his bedroom that day and that if the government property was there, it must have been his, according to court records.
The FBI did not respond to a a request for comment.
Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune