Federal agents have filed a warrant and seized $163,089 from the bank account of a Renton pawnshop, the same business profiled last month in the KING 5 Investigation “Trail of the Gun.”
Ben’s Loan is a longtime Renton pawnshop that is also a federally licensed firearms dealer. The IRS warrant, unsealed in federal court in Seattle, does not mention firearms sales.
But it does mention cash, lots of it.
Agents say Ben’s owner Nancy Cejudo and her daughter deposited $1,009,020 in cash into a single bank account.
In a sworn statement filed with the court, an agent reveals that the deposits of $9,000 were often made several times a week.
The IRS suspects the business of “smurfing” or “structuring” its cash deposits to avoid the $10,000 limit that triggers a bank report to the federal government. That’s a federal crime.
“The reason why the government has currency reporting laws is when you’re moving around large amounts of cash, we want to know about it,” said law professor Mary Fan of the University of Washington. Fan is a former federal prosecutor.
The agent’s affidavit says the government uses cash structuring laws to detect things like “narcotics trafficking, money laundering and tax crimes.”
Neither Ben’s owner or anyone else has been charged with a crime in this case.
The affidavit does not contain any information about Ben’s firearms sales.
Last month, the KING 5 Investigators revealed the results of federal firearms traces orderd by the Seattle Police Department. Police use traces to find out how a gun ended up in the hands of a criminal.
The KING 5 investigation found that during a three year period 100 of Seattle’s crime guns came from Ben’s loan. That’s more than any other single federally licensed firearms dealer.
At the time authorities told us a long-time, high volume dealer like Ben’s may get lots of hits even if they’re doing everything by the book.
Ben’s owner told us earlier they are following the law.
“You don’t carry a license and be in business as long as we have if you’re not doing things the right way,” said Nancy Cejudo, owner of Ben's Loan.
Cejudo said she would not talk about the investigation when KING 5 contacted her by phone on Friday.
Although no charges have been filed, the IRS has seized more than $163,000 they found in that bank account.