The Utah attorney general’s office is asking a judge to let state authorities keep more than $1 million in cash and merchandise seized during a June raid of several pawnshops associated with a polygamous sect.
Three civil asset forfeiture complaints were filed Monday against Xtreme Pawn, Sportsman’s Pawn and Sportsman’s Fast Cash. Officials with the attorney general’s office say the businesses were buying new-in-the-box items that clerks should have known were stolen.
The investigation began after Home Depot complained to police about thefts in its Utah stores increasing.
“According to Home Depot, it has lost around $60 million to theft in Utah over the last five years,” said Dave Carlson, the attorney general’s Justice Division Director. “The sale of stolen property to pawn shops also helps fuel Utah’s serious opioid problem, as most of the offenders who commit retail theft and sell the stolen items to pawn shops are doing it to support a drug habit.”
Officials with the attorney general’s office said in a Monday news release that the forfeiture would allow retailers to get back their stolen property. Any property or money that is not claimed would be paid over to a state fund, which then distributes the money to police agencies through a grant process.
No criminal charges have been filed in connection with the pawnshop investigation, and court filings give no indication whether the attorney general’s office is conducting a larger investigation into the Kingston Group, also known as the Davis County Cooperative Society. The pawnshops are owned by members of the group, public records show. Those ties are not discussed in court filings.
Utah pawnshops are required to enter the merchandise they buy and the seller’s information into a statewide database. Detectives from the attorney general’s office, search warrants say, browsed Xtreme and Sportsman’s entries to determine how many still-in-the-box items the shops were selling.
Court filings also describe investigators going undercover and selling new items that likely looked stolen to the pawnshops. Shop clerks did not question where the items came from, a prosecutor wrote in the forfeiture complaint, or ask for an explanation of why so many new items were being sold at the same time.