Pawn shop cleared in gift card thefts

  • Wed Jul 7th, 2010 8:20pm
  • News

By Diana Hefley Herald Writer

EVERETT — Prosecutors have dropped a 2008 felony charge against an Everett pawn shop owner once accused of trafficking in stolen property.

Jeff Jones, the owner of Sound Loan in downtown Everett, was accused of buying and selling thousands of dollars in stolen Lowe’s gift cards. Based on an investigation by Everett police detectives, Snohomish County prosecutors in 2008 charged Jones with second-degree trafficking in stolen property.

The felony charge was dismissed this spring. There wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove that Jones committed a crime or that the gift cards were stolen, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Helen Blume wrote in court papers.

Blume didn’t file the original charge against Jones.

Jones called police at least twice after people came into his store to sell Lowe’s gift cards, his attorney Karen Halverson said. He told police he was getting a lot of Lowe’s cards and wanted some direction from the detective, she said. The detective told Jones that as long as the cards were accompanied by receipts, he could take them and sell them, Halverson said.

Jones also called Lowe’s to verify the cards, the Everett attorney said. The cards he accepted weren’t stolen, she said.

“He had never had any problems. He felt like he was being responsible. He runs an upstanding and lawful business,” Halverson said. “It’s extremely difficult to be accused of something like that when you think you’ve taken all the steps to do the right thing.”

Everett police opened an investigation after receiving a call from a loss-prevention manager at Lowe’s. The manager advised police that people were stealing merchandise from Lowe’s and later returning the stolen items to the store. In exchange, they were receiving gift cards for the value of the merchandise they’d previously stolen.

The store’s policy had been to accept returns without a receipt, court papers said.

The manager reported that they had received more than 300 calls from Sound Loan to verify the amount of money on Lowe’s gift cards. Police also tracked a number of gift cards being sold on eBay.

An Everett police detective confronted Jones with the information. Jones told the detective he’d spoken with another detective, who had explained to him that it was legal as long as the seller provided Jones with a store receipt showing the balance on the card.

“Jeff is a hardworking guy and a good person,” Halverson said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.