A Pasco man pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges he has been fencing stolen goods for years to resell in a Mexico store.
Fernando Cano allegedly placed large orders with people for merchandise -- like Levi's 501 jeans, boots, yard tools and gift cards -- and paid substantially less than the retail value during exchanges in the alley behind his South 11th Avenue home.
Cano's arrest in June came after a two-month investigation by the Richland police Street Crimes Unit and Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force into an area retail theft ring.
A search of his home and an outdoor shed turned up dozens of pairs of jeans, money orders and shipping receipts to Mexico, a ledger detailing transactions and $42,000 cash, court documents said.
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Cano, 49, is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with two counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property and one count each of possessing a stolen firearm and first-degree organized retail theft.
Prosecutors allege that the retail theft was a major economic offense involving a monetary loss substantially greater than is typical for the crime and multiple victims or incidents per victim.
Trial is scheduled Oct. 1.
Cano, who's also identified in documents as Fernando Martinez-Cano, is out of custody after posting $50,000 bail. His conditions of release were amended to allow travel to Walla Walla and throughout Eastern Washington for work.
Also in court Tuesday was Kaleb Allen Shaffer, a 38-year-old Pasco man who was trying to sell stolen goods to Cano when police raided Cano's home June 26, court documents said.
Shaffer pleaded innocent to first-degree trafficking in stolen property and has an Aug. 27 trial date. He's being held on $50,000 bail, along with a Benton County warrant.
Richland Officer Jeff Bickford wrote in lengthy court documents that on April 4 he was contacted by a citizen who claimed that Cano frequently takes in stolen property from local drug users.
The citizen -- who Bickford said previously had given him credible information -- alleged Cano placed his orders, completed the deals behind his house and sold the items at his Mexican store. Cano had an outstanding order for 501 jeans in smaller sizes and DieHard boots to match his customer base, documents said.
On April 23, Bickford met with another confidential informant who admitted stealing and subsequently selling an estimated 150 to 200 pairs of men's Levi's to Cano, along with weed whackers, tools and chainsaws, court documents said. The informant reported receiving $13 to $14 per pair, adding that Cano only buys the jeans in quantities of 10 or more, documents said.
Richland police contacted Kroger, the parent company of Fred Meyer, and arranged to get property to sell while undercover. The store in late May provided officers with 20 pairs of jeans inside a tote bin for a total value of almost $1,000. The plastic security tags were removed from the jeans but the store tags remained intact, which officers then marked with an ultraviolet pen to help identify if the merchandise was later recovered, court documents said.
A confidential source who reportedly has sold similar product to Cano in the past then went to the home and got $200 for the exchange, documents said.
Surveillance officers allegedly saw Cano carry the tote with the jeans into the house from the backyard where the transaction occurred.
The source also reported that Cano went into his shed to inspect the jeans before getting money from the house, and commented that he wanted Chinook boots in a specific size, a Sawzall and a Toro lawn mower, court documents said. In describing the mower, Cano allegedly warned the source where to find a hidden security chip.
While the source was later talking to officers, Cano called and in a return call put in another detailed order for boots and said he wanted at least $2,300 in gift cards from hardware, home improvement and clothing stores.
Undercover detectives allegedly made another exchange with Cano in June, giving him 21 pairs of jeans in a tote that were valued at $1,000 for $150 and a $5 tip. And he again gave a shopping list of items to be stolen, like a lawn mower, weed eater, tarp and more jeans and shoes, documents said.
Officers went to the home June 26 to serve the search warrant and found Shaffer and Cano in a parked car in the alley.
Police also saw inside the car a 3-ton jack still in the box and a DeWalt cordless drill, court documents said. An officer went to the O'Reilly auto parts store in Pasco where a manager confirmed the jack was stolen earlier that day since there was an empty spot on the shelf and that model was last sold in September, documents said.
In the search of the home, a Taurus .38 Special revolver was found in Cano's bedroom. The gun was reported stolen from a Richland house in 2008.
He claimed in an interview with authorities that he bought the revolver for $150 from a random person about two years ago near a gas station.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer