Police: Watch Out for Stolen Items At Pawn Shops

Aug 9, 2019, 7:25 PM | Updated: Aug 10, 2019, 9:23 pm

AMERICAN FORK, Utah – Police have asked alert shoppers to help stop the flow of stolen merchandise from stores to online marketplaces and pawn shops. 

“They lose millions and millions of dollars every year just here in the state,” said Sgt. Josh Christensen with the American Fork Police Department about retail establishments.

Christensen said thieves are making a quick buck by stealing power tools, electronics and other higher-end products, and then selling them for pennies on the dollar to pawn shops. He recalled how one tip led to a break in a case.

“It was just a citizen who was shopping in a business next door, and they witnessed several people walking in with armfuls of brand new tools still in the boxes,” Christensen said. “We were able to uncover thousands and thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise.”

Over the past few years, retailers across the Wasatch Front have complained to police about stolen merchandise being sold online by pawnshops, which prompted investigations on the state and local level.

“Several items were documented for sale with the retailer’s ‘spider wire’ anti-theft device still on the package,” the Utah Attorney General’s Office said in statement. “The affected retail and outlet stores included Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, Shopko, Kroger Foods, Bed Bath and Beyond, CVS Pharmacy and others.”

Starting last year, special agents from the attorney general’s office started conducting undercover operations with brand-new, still-in-the-box items.

“These covert operations revealed that very little was being done by the pawn shops to discover the origin of the property they were purchasing,” the charging documents said.

The investigation led to detectives seizing $1.2 million in merchandise and to criminal charges being filed against a manager of West Jordan Xtreme Pawn, according to the attorney general’s office.

John Michael Jones, age 40, of West Jordan was charged with eight felonies, including receiving stolen property, communications fraud, theft of lost, mislaid or mistakenly delivered property and continuing a pattern of unlawful activity, charging documents state.

“On multiple occasions the undercover officers asked the Xtreme Pawn employees what types of items would garner more money than the item they were selling,” investigators write in the charging documents. “Often they were provided information on types of tools or batteries that would provide better payouts.”

Shoppers at pawn shops can help police by making sure they only purchase items that have been listed in the Utah Statewide Central Pawn Database. The database crosschecks with serial numbers of items that have been reported as stolen.

“We can research in that database to see if it’s shown up anywhere in the state,” Christensen said.

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Police: Watch Out for Stolen Items At Pawn Shops