Following a three day trial, a federal jury convicted Benjamin Dean Garrett, 41, of Pensacola, Florida, of conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce and interstate transportation of stolen property.
During the trial, the government proved that on February 1, 2008, Benjamin Dean Garrett, former co-owner of Sam’s Pawn Shop, lured a long-time Pensacola native from her home to his pawn shop, while his accomplices in a stolen property ring burglarized the victim’s home and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry. Garrett had known the victim, age 85, for years, and she had purchased jewelry at Garrett’s pawn shop. The plan called for Garrett to sell the jewelry to individuals outside the Pensacola area, from New York to South Florida. A portion of the victim’s jewelry was recovered in June 2008 at a pawn shop in Ashville, North Carolina. Thereafter, an additional quantity of the victim’s jewelry was recovered in Alabama. Of the estimated $600,000 worth of jewelry stolen on February 1, 2008, only about a third was ever recovered.
The investigation into this stolen property ring was originally initiated by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, when multiple items of heavy equipment were reported stolen in the Northern District of Florida. During the late fall of 2007, a break in the case came when one of those involved in the thefts began cooperating with law enforcement. The scheme was ultimately dismantled until March 2008. In total, approximately $300,000 worth of heavy equipment was stolen from victims in the Northern District of Florida and Alabama. Once the property was stolen, the members of the ring transported the property across the Florida/Alabama border, so that the property could be sold in the opposite state.
In addition to Garrett, eight other individuals were indicted for their involvement in this interstate stolen property ring, which included six Pensacola men: Kreg King, 43, Ronald McDonald, 58, David Aaron Smith, 23, Lee Goodell, 25, and Eric Gardner, 22. Two men from Alabama were also indicted for their involvement in the stolen property ring: Tyler James England, 29, of Chelsea, Alabama, and Jody Wheeler, 27, of Pleasant Grove, Alabama. Only Garrett went to trial; each of the other eight men indicted for their involvement pled guilty. England and Wheeler were implicated in the Pensacola jewelry theft and are serving forty-one and twenty-four month prison sentences respectively. All defendants sentenced thus far have been ordered to pay restitution to the victims and insurance companies.
The jury convicted Garrett of the two charges contained in the indictment, conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce and interstate transportation of stolen property. Garrett faces up to five years in prison on Count One and up to ten years in prison on Count Four. Garrett is scheduled to be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers on November 2, 2012, at 9:00 a.m.