A Roosevelt merchant says burglaries may force him out of business because the perpetrators, although caught red-handed, are never fined or required to pay restitution.

Downtown businessman Doyle Wilkens said his music and electric store has been burglarized twice in the past five months. The most recent hit came late last month when a thief wielding a tire iron smashed in a window and got away with two guitars and an amplifier.A suspect was apprehended soon after the theft in Fort Duchesne by a Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement officer. But by then the suspect had allegedly thrown both guitars out of his moving car and was dragging the amplifier by its cord from the car window.

Roosevelt Police say the man will be charged in Ute Tribal Court with charges similar to state counts of business burglary and felony theft.

Damage to Wilkens' store and music equipment is estimated at $2,400. It's money Wilkens says will come out of his pocket. Five months ago, thieves stole an estimated $5,000 worth of music equipment and even though they were caught and tried, Wilkens says restitution will never be made because in his experience the tribal court won't follow through.

"You can file for damages. I've gone that route. But you can't get anything," he complained. "For me to try to press charges to try to get restitution is a total waste of time. Even if you keep pursuing it nothing ever happens.

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"The guys who ripped me off last time are already out on the street. Others see they can get away with it. Even the cops say we're just at their mercy."

When a crime occurs on the reservation, Utah tribal members are prosecuted in tribal court, which enforces the Ute Tribal Law and Order Code. If the crime is serious enough the case is moved to federal court for prosecution. The state has no say in how criminal cases are prosecuted in either court, even though the victim may not be a tribal member.

Wilkens says he can count on the state court to order and enforce restitution when the culprit falls under its jurisdiction, but it doesn't work that way with the tribal court.

Now he says with no insurance against such losses staying in business may be impossible. He says sometimes the stolen merchandise is returned, but it's usually in such bad shape it can't be sold, or is sold at a loss.

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