The volume of scripture LDS Church members tote to church each Sunday apparently is a hot commodity.
Alpine/Highland police arrested a 63-year-old man Wednesday suspected of stealing $10,000 worth of quadruple combinations from Deseret Book stores in Utah and Salt Lake counties and selling them at greatly reduced prices to unsuspecting buyers, said Chief John Lilly. The "quad" includes the Bible, The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.Leather-bound, indexed copies of the book retail for $90. They were being sold on the street for $50, Lilly said.
A Deseret Book employee in Utah County two weeks ago alerted police to a flier on a bulletin board at a Highland market advertising a "close-out" sale on the books. Police called a telephone number on the ad and arranged for undercover officers to buy some of the books from a Highland woman who answered the telephone. The woman took orders for the books and called them in to a man living at a Salt Lake motel, Lilly said.
Alpine Det. Kim Collins followed the man Tuesday as he hopscotched on UTA buses from store to store in the two counties. Police accused the man of shoplifting the books by stuffing them into a duffel bag. It appeared the man sought specific binding colors and filled orders on demand, Lilly said.
Police arrested the man, who Lilly said is wanted in Canada on fraud and racketeering charges, at the Covered Wagon Motel, 230 W. North Temple, Wednesday morning. He is being held in the Utah County Jail on suspicion of theft and receiving stolen property.
The Highland woman, who apparently paid $25 for the books and sold them for $50, was not arrested, although Lilly said she should have known the books were stolen. "Common sense should tell you that if you get something for less than half the price something is wrong," he said.
Deseret Book was hesitant to discuss the case because store officials aren't sure of its magnitude.
"The scope of this is not really understood yet," said Gary Swapp, vice president for wholesale. "I don't know that we're through with this whole thing yet."
Other merchandise might be involved, he added.
Asked if the incident could be part of a larger theft ring, Swapp said, "We don't know for sure."
Lilly said Wednesday's arrest ended Alpine/Highland's investigation. Police don't know of any others selling the books.
Although shoplifting occurs daily at retail stores, Swapp says this case appears different.
"It is unusual - it's not the kind of thing that goes on every day," he said.
Lilly said "only in Utah" would police be investigating a scripture scam.