A Nevada man tried to swap an early edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the accepted books of scripture for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for a used car this week.
The early copy of the scripture, valued at $110,000, was among LDS and American historical items that were inside a trailer that was stolen.
Thieves stole the trailer from Utah art dealer Lee Snarr after he stopped for dinner in Reno on his way to an art show in San Francisco, Reno Police Lt. Ron Donnelly said.
Snarr, a North Salt Lake resident, said the trailer was packed with $400,000 worth of religious art and early edition LDS documents. It was stolen Oct. 11 from the Diamonds Casino parking lot.
Snarr was inside the casino for less than an hour eating dinner, Donnelly said. When he returned, the trailer was gone. Inside the trailer were bronze statues of American presidents and LDS authorities, including Abraham Lincoln and LDS Church founder Joseph Smith. Also inside were historical copies of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.
The thieves subsequently made several attempts to sell or pawn the religious documents, Donnelly said. Some of the stolen items have been recovered.
"It's equivalent to a wino pawning off the Mona Lisa. It sets off a lot of bells and alarms," he said.
In one instance, a man dickering for a used car claimed he didn't have any money and tried to trade the $110,000 copy of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Police recovered the religious document after the car salesman took it to a local bookstore to determine its value. Donnelly said the prospective car buyer claimed a friend gave him the document and told him it was worth a lot of money.
Donnelly said police tracked down the individual who gave the book to the man who tried to swap it for a car. The 39-year-old man was arrested Wednesday on two counts of possession of stolen property and possession of methamphetamine.
The man told police he also gave a Book of Mormon valued at $60,000 to a woman who then gave it to her brother. The brother gave the book back to police detectives Thursday morning, Donnelly said.
Police are still searching for an 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price. One of the alleged thieves tried to pawn the document on Oct. 14. When police tried to lure the man back to the pawn shop the next day he didn't return, Donnelly said.
"These people aren't very sophisticated, and they don't have the means to pawn this type of high-dollar merchandise," Donnelly said. "They are standing out, standing out big time when they start pawning off $100,000 books."
Donnelly said police located Snarr's stolen trailer at a trailer park in Sun Valley, Nev. All identifying marks had been scratched off, including the identification and serial numbers. The decals on the outside of the trailer had been removed, said Donnelly, and the shelving inside the trailer had been ripped out.
None of the stolen artifacts or documents were found at the trailer park, Donnelly said. Police arrested a second 39-year-old man for possession of the stolen trailer.