gavel.jpgThe six defendants charged in connection with the killing of a man found bound and gagged alongside a severely beaten hog-tied woman on a San Francisco street are believed to be part of an organized credit card fraud operation, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said this afternoon.

This case “unfolds like a bad movie plot,” Gascon said at his office after a sixth defendant, Catherine Uong, 26, was charged this morning in San Francisco Superior Court with murder, robbery, fraudulent credit card activity, and various assault and weapons charges in San Francisco Superior Court.

She joins five others who had previously been charged in connection with the death of Stephen Reid, 26.

Gascon said there is evidence that the defendants–Uong, nicknamed “Killer,” Montrail Brackens, 21, Vincent Bell, 31, Heather Leach, 24, Maryann Manalastas, 22, and Tyler Miller, 19 — were manufacturing false credit cards out of a home in Hercules.

The group was apparently working together, and were all well-known to the female victim. Reid appears to have “stumbled” upon the group, however his connection is still unclear, according to Gascon.

“We’re dealing with people who are not hesitant to kill someone,” Gascon said.

The case stems from the death of Reid on the night of Dec. 9 when he and an 18-year-old woman were found tied up in the middle of the 900 block of Brussels Street.

Reid was found suffering from a gunshot wound to the neck, while the woman had life-threatening injuries but is now expected to survive. Reid died later that night at a hospital.

Brackens and Bell, who also appeared briefly in court this morning with Leach and Manalastas to set their next appearance, are accused of entering a home at 3733 San Bruno Ave. that night and assaulting Reid and the 18-year-old woman.

The pair then tied the victims up and gagged them, including stuffing a sock in the woman’s mouth, and put them in a GMC Yukon, according to court filings.

Leach, whose aliases include Krystal Gillespie and “Snow,” was also apparently in the Yukon. At some point, someone allegedly shot Reid in the neck and the victims were then dumped on the roadway on Brussels Street, according to a criminal complaint filed by the district attorney’s office.

Leach and Manalastas, along with Uong, are believed to have assaulted the woman in a bedroom on San Bruno Avenue before she was bound and gagged, the complaint alleges.

The suspects allegedly destroyed evidence in the Yukon the next day at a home on Pinnacle Court in Hercules by spraying cleaning fluid inside and removing bloodstained carpet and foam padding, according to the complaint.

The Pinnacles Court home where the car was parked is apparently Miller’s mother’s home, Miller’s defense attorney John Kaman said today.

At that home, the district attorney’s office said a credit card reader, label maker, some 50 blank credit cards, a zip drive and handwritten notes with various numbers, addresses and names were found.

The district attorney’s office has requested handwriting samples from all the defendants, for what prosecutors say will connect written documents recovered in Hercules to the murder and fraudulent use of credit cards.

Uong, Bell, Brackens and Leach are in custody on $2 million bail and Manalastas is on $500,000 bail.

Miller is expected to post $50,000 bail today after she was taken into custody this morning when her bail was raised from $15,000.

She was arraigned two weeks ago on charges of conspiracy and being an accessory to the crime after the fact. She had been out on bail until this morning.

Uong is set to be arraigned Jan. 14, with the five other defendants also expected to appear in court that day.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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