Pawn shop operator in Missouri pleads guilty to $3 million scheme to sell over 100,000 stolen items online

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The former operator of a Kansas City, Missouri pawn shop pleaded guilty in federal court to engaging in a $3 million scheme to fence more than 100,000 stolen items and sell them on eBay.

Frank J. Santa Maria, 58, of Leawood, Kansas, waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough to a federal information that charges him with one count of transporting stolen property across state lines.

Santa Maria operated J’s Pawn, which was owned by his wife, for approximately 20 years until it closed in January 2023.

By pleading guilty, Santa Maria admitted that he knowingly purchased approximately 100,860 items that had been stolen from various retailers in the Kansas City area, such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, CVS, and Walgreens. Santa Maria then posted the stolen items for sale on multiple eBay pages and shipped them to purchasers across the country, resulting in gross proceeds of approximately $3,079,342.

The plea agreement refers to four unidentified “boosters,” or shoplifters, from whom Santa Maria purchased such stolen items as ink cartridges, Crest Whitestrips, Rogaine products, Nicorette products, over-the-counter supplements, and medications, Spypoint cameras, Nikon rangefinders, electric fence systems over a four-and-a-half-year period from Jan. 1, 2017, to July 24, 2021.

During the execution of a search warrant at J’s Pawn on Oct. 21, 2021, officers seized 4,749 items that Santa Maria does not contest were stolen property. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Santa Maria must forfeit to the government all property derived from the proceeds of the offense, including a money judgment of $2,752,352. Santa Maria must also forfeit $302,172 that was seized from his bank account in a pending civil asset forfeiture proceeding.

Under federal statutes, Santa Maria is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole.  A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas Heberle, Matthew Wolesky, and Anthony Brown. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

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