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Originally published Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Burien couple sentenced in Liberty Loan pawnshop scam

Leslie Calvo, 39, of Burien, who ran Seattle's Liberty Jewelry & Loan pawnshop, was sentenced to 53 months in prison after pleading guilty in July to six counts of trafficking in stolen property, possession of stolen property and two other related crimes. Her husband, Richard Calvo, 40, was sentenced to 12 months of work release on one count of first-degree trafficking and one count of first-degree possession of stolen property.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A woman who ran a well-known Pike Street pawnshop was sentenced Friday after pleading guilty to buying stolen goods from drug addicts and then selling them to unsuspecting customers. Her husband also was sentenced.

Leslie Calvo, 39, of Burien, who ran the Liberty Jewelry & Loan pawnshop, was sentenced to 53 months in prison after pleading guilty in July to six counts of trafficking in stolen property, possession of stolen property and two other related crimes.

Her husband, Richard Calvo, 40, was sentenced to 12 months of work release on one count of first-degree trafficking and one count of first-degree possession of stolen property.

The couple and Leslie Calvo's father, Martin D. Levy, were arrested in 2006, two years after Seattle police began an undercover investigation into the pawnshop scam. Stemming from a tip, the investigation found that the shop's employees did not document items they were receiving and selling as required by law; failed to record the names of those who sold items to the shop; and specifically asked police informants — mostly area drug dealers — to steal particular items of value from nearby retailers, which they then sold to Liberty Jewelry and Loan, according to court documents.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of stolen merchandise was funneled through the shop, prosecutors say.

Leslie Calvo was painted as the ringleader.

The Attorney General's Office prosecuted the case because a relative of the defendants works for the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

Levy, the shop owner, 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, was sentenced last month to two years in prison as part of the plea deal, which allowed him to avoid the even more serious charge of leading organized crime.

The defendants paid 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, according to charging papers. They then sold the items at the 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, more than $110,000 in items were sold on the eBay account belonging to the pawnshop, according to court papers.

"In my mind, it was like I wasn't stealing anything," Calvo told the judge through tears. "I regret it very much. It was so very wrong."

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

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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