Three men who investigators say were selling stolen shoes that weren't yet available for purchase in Utah were arrested after undercover officers shut down their own-it-before-you-can-buy-it operation.

Casey Mace, 42, Brian Caudle, 34, and Timothy McCartney, 51, all were arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail in an investigation of possession of stolen property.

A confidential informant tipped off detectives that some people were selling Wenger Swiss Army Shoes out of a residence, said South Salt Lake police Detective Gary Keller. The shoes weren't available yet for residents to buy in local stores, according to a Salt Lake County Jail report.

The shoes were being stored in a warehouse in South Salt Lake in preparation for them to be shipped to local retailers. Investigators believe the trio broke into the warehouse and stole the shoes.

Keller said Thursday that it appeared the group simply got lucky in stealing the shoes and did not know what they were getting or what they were after ahead of time. Detectives did not believe the three men arrested had any affiliation to the warehouse, he said.

After being tipped off that the men were "selling the shoes out the backdoor," Keller said, undercover officers made several purchases of the new shoes.

Late Tuesday, officers served two search warrants and recovered about $5,000 worth of shoes, jail documents state. Investigators believe about 200 pairs of shoes were stolen, Keller said. As of Thursday, only 27 pairs had been recovered.

Because of the total value of the number of shoes stolen, the men were all booked on second-degree felonies.

A check of court records showed Mace had the most extensive criminal history in Utah of the three, with previous charges of theft by receiving stolen property in addition to numerous civil suits filed against him and traffic offenses. Caudle has been charged and convicted on various counts, such as forgery and drug possession, according to court records.

The investigation into the stolen shoes was continuing Thursday as detectives tried to locate the remaining missing shoes.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com