Criminal Conspiracy Profited Most During COVID Pandemic
The owner of a Kansas City, Mo., pawn shop was sentenced in federal court last week for engaging in a $744,000 scheme to fence more than 14,500 stolen items and sell them on eBay.
Dennis G. Russell, 66, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs to 20 months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Russell to pay a $100,000 fine and to forfeit to the government $744,222, which represents the proceeds obtained from the conspiracy.
On March 24, 2023, Russell pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines. During the scheme, Russell was one of two members of the board of directors of Rison of KC, Inc., which does business as National Pawn at 6223 E. Truman Road in Kansas City, Mo. Rison of KC is also charged with the same offense but has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Russell admitted that he participated in a nearly five-year-long conspiracy from Jan. 1, 2017, to July 27, 2021, to purchase items he knew had been stolen from various retail locations in the Kansas City metropolitan area, then sell those items on eBay. Russell shipped approximately 14,672 stolen items across state lines, resulting in gross proceeds of approximately $744,222.
Multiple thieves, known as “boosters,” stole items from Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, CVS, Walgreens, and other retail locations. They sold such stolen items as robot vacuum cleaners, textbooks, Roku and Google Chromecast television streaming devices, and Crest Whitestrips to Russell at a fraction of their retail price. Russell then posted the stolen items for sale on eBay, using one of two accounts, and shipped them to purchasers in numerous other states.
According to court documents, Russell continued his scheme during the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, 2020 was his most profitable year, selling 7,089 stolen items on eBay and receiving $324,842 in gross proceeds. In one instance, from Feb. 20 to April 2, 2020, two boosters — who were working in tandem — provided him with 641 stolen items.
Russell only stopped his illegal conduct after a federal search warrant was executed at National Pawn and he was served with a target letter. On Oct. 21, 2021, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at National Pawn and seized 3,400 items, which Russell and National Pawn do not contest were stolen property and which have been forfeited to the government.
Rison of KC has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Under the terms of that agreement, the business admits to the criminal conspiracy and accepts responsibility for the acts of its officers and employees. The government will defer prosecution of Rison of KC for that conduct during the three-year term of the agreement and will not continue with prosecution if the business fully complies with its obligations under the agreement, which include:
- National Pawn must keep a current list of all employees, all financial accounts, and all auction websites it utilizes;
- National Pawn must obtain and retain a verifiable third-party receipt for any new product purchased;
- Russell must not work at or profit from National Pawn.
This case was 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.