A five-month investigation into a rash of high-end antiques burglaries has culminated in the arrests of six people and warrants issued for at least two others, Salt Lake police announced Tuesday.
Two of the people arrested were well known locally in the antiques and art community, including one man that some say was the main high-end antiques dealer in Salt Lake City.
Anthony Christensen, 62, the owner of Anthony's Antiques and Fine Art, 401 E. 200 South, was arrested and charged in 3rd District Court with theft by receiving stolen property, a second degree felony. John Pilcher, 66, another well known buyer and seller, was charged with the same crime as a co-defendant.
For about a year, a group of people have been breaking into homes throughout Salt Lake and Summit counties and stealing valuable antique art, according to police. Investigators believed the group wasn't just guessing what was valuable and what wasn't.
"We have recovered thousand of dollars worth of property," said Salt Lake police detective Jeff Bedard. "This wasn't just nickel and dime kind of stuff."
How the burglars knew which homes to burglarize was still being investigated Tuesday. But Bedard noted some of the people arrested "used to be employed in the antiques field, so they new what had value and what didn't."
After stealing the valuable merchandise, the group would sell the property to local antique stores, coin shops and metal recyclers, according to police.
Bedard said Tuesday additional arrests were possible.
Dennis Hobot, 41; Shane Kennedy, 42; Gerald Kory Lloyd, 61; and Sonny Gines, 24, were each charged with burglary. Warrants were also issued for Carrie Lynn Galloway, 30, and Ricky Hepner, 28, who were not in custody as of Tuesday. Investigators believe the group was responsible for most of the home burglaries, sometimes hitting the same home twice and sometimes exchanging their stolen goods with each other as part of a network-like scenario.
In February, a man had two paintings stolen from his house, according to documents filed in 3rd District Court. On March 7, the homeowner went to several antique stores looking for his paintings and to warn the stores to be on the lookout. Anthony's Antiques said it did not know about the stolen paintings.
A half-hour after the man got home, however, he received a call from Anthony's that one of the paintings was there, court documents state.
Police learned that Pilcher bought the painting from Hobot for $1,000 in a "trunk-to-trunk" transaction in the parking lot of Sears. Pilcher then sold the painting to Christensen for $5,000. Pilcher also bought the second painting from Lloyd, and detectives found that one still in his home, according to court documents.
In another incident, Kennedy met Hobot on Feb. 25 at a Salt Lake County motel where the two exchanged a $45,000 painting, an amber lamp valued at $3,000 and a purple Tiffany lamp valued at $4,500. Hobot also helped Kennedy pack "three bags full of other items" into Kennedy's vehicle, according to court documents.
That vehicle later got into a car accident. The owner of the stolen merchandise later identified a toy truck valued at $145 that was found in the wrecked vehicle as well as a piece of purple glass that matched the Tiffany lamp.
The merchandise owner later found a $65 Cloisonne jar of his at one pawn shop and nine photographs, worth more than $1,000, at yet another pawn shop.
Other court documents say Hobot, Kennedy, Galloway and Hepner found themselves talking one day about "the difficulty and resulting damage removing wall-mounted televisions" from one particular residence. Hobot then talked about a guitar he had stolen from the same residence in a December 2007 burglary.Utah state court records show Hobot, Kennedy and Lloyd have extensive criminal histories including arrests and charges for forgery, drug possession, exploiting the elderly, burglary, theft and operation of a drug lab. Gines has had several felony arrests in Utah since 2006.