Pawn shop owners sentenced for theft scheme

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by By CHRIS DANIELS / KING 5 News and KING5.com

Bio | Email | Follow: @ChrisDaniels5

KING5.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 21 at 1:17 PM

Video: Pawn shop owner faces prison time

SEATTLE - A husband and wife accused of recruiting street addicts and transients to steal expensive merchandise to be resold from their Seattle pawn shop were sentenced Friday.

Leslie Calvo received four years, five months in prison.

She shook and cried during the entire hearing. Her attorneys tried to make a case for the drug offender sentencing alternative, but the judge denied that saying the case was built on greed.

"In my mind, I wasn't stealing anything," said Leslie Calvo in court.

Her husband Richard received 12 months of work release. He had a clean record before this and prosecutors said he was the least culpable.

Leslie Calvo ran the Liberty Jewelry & Loan pawnshop on Pike Street that was owned by her father. She pleaded guilty in May to six counts of trafficking in stolen property and possession of stolen property.

Richard Calvo pleaded guilty to first-degree trafficking and possession of stolen property.

Leslie's father, Martin Levy, was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to trafficking in stolen property, possession of stolen property and second-degree solicitation to commit theft.

Many of the stolen items were returned to their owners.

"I was amazed, not only because of the sheer quantity, but it was so well organized," said glass blower James Curtis. He's just getting some of his stolen items out of lockup this week.

Undercover video showing how the suspects ordered the items they wanted stolen was just one piece of evidence in the case.

Seattle Police Det. Dan Stokke says the two-year investigation of the Liberty Loan scheme has paid off.

"The crimes have diminished very, very much so in the downtown core as far as shoplifting is concerned," said Stokke.

Police and prosecutors said Levy and his daughter not only bought stolen goods from addicts and transients, they directed the thieves to steal from nearby stores.

Items reportedly recovered by police included 52 Armani suits from Nordstrom, hundreds of pieces of expensive blown-glass art, cell phones, golf clubs and more.

Leslie Calvo's attorney reportedly said she pleaded guilty to avoid a possible conviction on the more serious charge of leading an organized-crime ring. That could have put her in prison for up to 10 years.

The state is prosecuted the case because a relative of the defendants works in the King County prosecutor's office.

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