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Originally published Monday, July 7, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Former pawnshop owner sentenced to prison for selling stolen items

Martin D. Levy, the former owner of a well-known downtown Seattle pawnshop, was sentenced today to two years in prison in connection with...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Martin D. Levy, the former owner of a well-known downtown Seattle pawnshop, was sentenced today to two years in prison in connection with a scheme to sell items stolen by drug addicts.

In a deal with prosecutors, Levy, 71, who owned Liberty Jewelry and Loan, pleaded guilty in May to four counts of trafficking in stolen property and two counts of possession of stolen property, all felonies, as well as one count of solicitation to commit second-degree theft, a misdemeanor.

Levy, of Mercer Island, had also been charged with one count of leading organized crime, punishable by up to 16 ½ years in prison. That charge was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Levy's daughter, Leslie Calvo, and son-in-law, Richard Calvo, of Burien, have also pleaded guilty in the case and will be sentenced in the coming weeks.

Levy paid street-level thieves and drug addicts a small fee, usually 10 percent of the item's value, to steal golf clubs, cellular phones, designer clothing and art from local retail stores. He and family members then turned around and sold the items at the Pike Street pawnshop in a scheme that went on for years, according to court papers. Levy and his co-defendants also sold some items on eBay and kept others for themselves.

During a one-year period in 2004, over $110,000 in items were sold on the eBay account belonging to the pawnshop, according to court papers.

Specific stolen items purchased by Liberty included dozens of brand new Armani suits, a $4,500 crystal vase and other artworks from various Seattle glass shops and KitchenAid mixers from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

After receiving a tip, Seattle police began investigating the shop in 2004 using informants who sold stolen property to the defendants. The investigation found that the shop's employees did not document items it was receiving and selling as required by law, failed to record the names of those who sold the shop items, and specifically asked informants to steal particular items of value, according to court documents.

Many of the informants — some of whom were listed on a city roster of criminals supposedly prohibited from selling to pawn shops — reported that they continued their lifestyles of theft and drug use in part because Liberty provided a stable way to trade stolen goods for cash.

Levy was not present during all transactions of stolen goods and might not have even known about all of them, though he was generally aware of the conduct, according to John Hillman, assistant attorney general for the state. The Attorney General's Office prosecuted the case.

King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum also sentenced Levy to one year of jail suspended on the condition that Levy complies with probation requirements for two years following release from prison. Levy was also sentenced to pay about $86,000 in costs. At the defense's request, the judge allowed Levy to report to prison Monday due to health concerns.

Leslie Calvo pleaded guilty to six counts of trafficking stolen property, two counts of possession of stolen property, one count of unlawful use of proceeds of criminal profiteering and one count of solicitation to commit theft. She is scheduled to be sentenced on July 25.

Richard Calvo, who is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 15, pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking stolen property and one count of theft.

Natalie Singer: 206-464-2704 or nsinger@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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