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Burglary victim forced to buy stolen property back from pawn shop



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It's happened again: burglary victims are having to buy back their own things from pawn shops. A Salt Lake County woman says the law needs to be changed.

Mary Kim Oswald is a professional photographer. Last Wednesday, Oswald returned home in the middle of the day to find her basement window broken and more than $12,000 worth of her property gone, including a very expensive camera and lenses.

"My camera bag with all of my lenses and my camera, and a lot of equipment that has taken me years and years to earn," Oswald said.

Fortunately, she had the serial number and a sheriff's deputy tracked the stolen property to the EZ Pawn on 7200 South. There was even some of her family's heirlooms and jewelry.

But even though she could prove it was hers, the pawn shop would not give it to back to her. She had to pay to get back what was hers.

"It was very painful. I was physically ill in the pawn shop," she said. "We should be protected. We pay taxes. We are homeowners. This is not right. The law is protecting the pawn shops and the criminals."

29-year-old Nikolas Neilson is thought to be responsible for the theft and police are looking for him. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call Unified Police at (801) 743-7000.
29-year-old Nikolas Neilson is thought to be responsible for the theft and police are looking for him. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call Unified Police at (801) 743-7000.

Oswald says the detective could put two consecutive 90-day holds on the property while he tries to catch, charge, prosecute and sentence the burglar. Then she could get her equipment back. Or she could simply buy it back from the shop immediately.

Police say that there have been some recent changes in the law.

"If a pawn shop were to purchase an expensive item from a person off the street, and then we were to come in and say 'Oh, that item's stolen,' we would seize the item and return it to the owners," said Detective. Levi Hughes with the Unified Police Department.

"But now we have two victims. We have the victim that is the original theft, and the pawn shop who has now spent money to purchase that item who it's not taken from."

Oswald felt she had no choice but to buy it back since he needs her camera for work. "My camera is like my baby," she said.

The burglar also took her new Wii, iPods and a laptop. Those have not yet been recovered. She now has new alarm system at her studio and says she has a picture of half of the burglar's face on her camera's memory card. A pawn shop employee must have taken it while fiddling with the camera.

The only consolation is that police seem to have found someone they think is responsible for the theft: 29-year-old Nikolas Neilson, a convicted felon violating his parole for drugs, forgery, theft, and burglary. He had left all of his contact information with the pawn shop.

There is now a warrant out for his arrest and Nielson is on the run. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call Unified Police at 801-743-7000.

As for what you can do to protect yourself? Police say insurance is about all you can do to recover the money lost for items if you're in a similar situation.

Written by Mary Richards and Jennifer Stagg.

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Mary Richards
    Jennifer Stagg

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