Aspen police: Where do we send all these iPods? |

Aspen police: Where do we send all these iPods?

Joel Stonington
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
The Aspen Police Department is auctioning items like these, seized in theft cases, on a nationwide website. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN ” When a couple recently were arrested for allegedly stealing credit cards out of cars and buying luxury goods in Aspen, the Aspen Police Department suddenly became the custodians of a lot of stuff.

From a hollow-body electric guitar to skis, Bushnell binoculars to a few iPods, to jackets, purses and jewelry, multiple garbage bags full of property were seized.

Police allege that Jeremy Wayne Nichols, 34, and Leslie Christine Castle, 24, were involved in a handful of car break-ins in Aspen and Basalt, and police have records for fraudulent credit card purchases at high-end Aspen shops.

Essentially, it has become the job of the police department to figure out to whom the property belongs, and everything left over is required by city ordinance to be sold at auction.

“If someone comes forward then it becomes evidence,” said Michele McClinton, evidence custodian for the department. “That’s probably why we’re keeping [the recently seized goods] a little longer than a regular lost-and-found item.”

Until three years ago, the police auctions were held in front of the Pitkin County Courthouse every year or so. And police still hold vehicle and bicycle auctions every year for seized or abandoned vehicles.

For property such iPods, jewelry and other items, Aspen police now send them to a website:

The site takes a significant chunk of the proceeds but police say they now make more than they ever did with the auctions next to the courthouse.

“The [website employees] call me and say they have a trip planned, they come by and pick it up,” McClinton said. “They take half of everything under $1,000 and over $1,000 we get something like 70 percent. It’s worth it.”

The actual property room site is something to behold. Listing items large and small from police departments around the country, it’s like an eBay of stolen goods ” from CDs to videos to jewelry. There’s even beachfront property, bicycles and Rolex watches.

But before things can be sold, however, detectives try to find the rightful owners of property, to whom it is returned, with the hope that the person will assist police by testifying in court if necessary. That way the property can be used to build a criminal case.

“I was able to recover some things that were bought with a credit card at Prada,” detective Chris Womack said, adding that items allegedly were taken from Pismo Fine Art Gallery, Mark Richards Fine Outerwear, Wolf Camera and a jewelry store in Snowmass Village.

“We do everything we can to find the owner,” Womack said. “With cell phones we always look for ‘home’ or ‘mom.'”

With iPods, detectives will look through the photos. Two iPods were identified as local and returned, but one remains that might have been owned by someone named Ami.

“I just don’t know who Ami is, and I don’t recognize anyone in the pictures,” Womack said.

In the case of the couple who allegedly bought goods with stolen credit cards, anything unclaimed will be kept through the duration of the case.

Castle was advised in Pitkin County District Court last week on charges of felony theft in a series and three counts of unauthorized use of a financial transaction device. She faces two to six years in prison on the theft charge and one to three years on each of the financial transaction charges. She is being held in the Pitkin County jail on $15,000 bond.

Nichols still is being held in Denver on charges of motor vehicle theft.

If Castle or Nichols can prove ownership, they get their items back. If not, the goods are relegated to the property room.

“[Castle] has come and said, ‘I want my stuff,'” said McClinton. “Some obvious things like a bag of cosmetics are probably going to be hers. I don’t know, there’s a lot of junk in there.”

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