SEATTLE – A father, his daughter and her husband hired a stable of drug addicts and transients to steal items from local art galleries and department stores, then fenced the goods at a Seattle pawn shop and on the Internet, police say.
The state Attorney General’s Office filed 31 charges Thursday in King County Superior Court against Martin D. Levy, 69, owner of Liberty Jewelry and Loan; his daughter, Leslie Calvo, 38, who also ran the pawn shop; and her husband, Richard Calvo, 37, who has a dental practice in Burien. The charges include trafficking in stolen property, possession of stolen property, solicitation of theft and leading organized crime.
“This is a tale right out of Charles Dickens,” state Attorney General Rob McKenna said at a news conference.
The addicts would shoplift high-end items – Armani suits worth as much as $2,000, Coach purses, glass artwork, golf clubs and electronics – and provide them to the pawn shop for about 10 percent of their retail value, police said.
The investigation began after an informant told police in 2004 that the pawn shop, a stone’s throw from Pike Place Market, was the center of a massive fencing operation.
Lawyers for the family said they deny the allegations and will clear their names at trial.
One informant said that after he stole overcoats from Nordstrom department store, Leslie Calvo sent him back to get matching scarves and gloves, court documents said. Another informant told police he had been delivering stolen goods to the shop since 1988.
The three plaintiffs also set up an eBay.com account, on which they sold $300,000 worth of merchandise during the course of the investigation, police said.
Investigators said they set up about a dozen controlled buys of stolen items.