The Utah Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday raided seven pawnshops operated by members of the polygamous Kingston Group.
The pawnshops are in Salt Lake and Utah counties and operate under the names Xtreme Pawn, Sportsmans Pawn or Sportsmans Fast Cash. Nate Mutter, the assistant chief of investigations at the Attorney General’s Office, said investigators received complaints the shops were fencing stolen, new merchandise.
The seven search warrants, Mutter said, sought evidence of receiving or selling stolen property and related crimes, including money laundering. No one has been arrested.
“The investigation is open,” Mutter said. “Doing the search warrants was just one step in that investigation. It was just a monumental step, as it seemed. There was a lot of evidence seized.”
Mutter said investigators seized between $1 million and $1.5 million in merchandise, pallet loads that including tools, appliances, electronics and sporting goods. No secondhand merchandise was seized, he said. FOX 13 reported that the goods filled four storage units, and police spent 18 hours executing the search warrants.
Representatives of the pawnshops did not return messages seeking comment. A review of business records show the pawnshops are operated by members of the Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as the Kingston Group. Members hold fundamentalist Mormon beliefs, including plural marriage and sharing of assets.
Kent Johnson, a spokesman for the Davis County Cooperative Society, said he did not know details of the raids. Johnson said the cooperative encourages its members to follow the law.
In 2016, the IRS and FBI raided business offices of the Kingstons in South Salt Lake. No charges have ever resulted.
Mutter on Friday said the investigation into the pawnshops is not related to the 2016 federal raid. He also declined to discuss whether there is a larger investigation of the Kingston Group. He kept the focus on pawnshops.
“Our goal is to figure out where the property came from and how it handled that property,” Mutter said.
Utah pawnshops are required to enter the merchandise they buy and information about the seller into a statewide database. Law enforcement can search the database for property reported as stolen.
Mutter said part of the investigation will examine whether the property his investigators seized was properly entered into the database.