WEST JORDAN — At least two people have been arrested and police say they have recovered about half of an estimated $150,000 in sports memorabilia that was stolen from a trailer in July.
On July 29, John Berry — who claims to have one of the biggest private sports memorabilia collections in the state — reported that someone had stolen his Wells Cargo trailer from a parking lot at the Vista Montana Condominiums in West Jordan. Inside the trailer were large hockey duffel bags, boxes, totes and other containers holding approximately $150,000 worth of sports memorabilia, according to police.
The trailer was found abandoned and burned on Aug. 5 near 2424 S. 8000 West, but the memorabilia was missing, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in 3rd District Court.
A few days later, West Jordan police developed information leading them to Michael Brandon Morris, 33, of West Jordan, whom they put under surveillance, the warrant states. An undercover officer posing as a potential buyer arranged a meeting with Morris and his friend, Mariah Christine Smith, 19, on Aug. 10, the warrant states. When they arrived at the designated meeting spot with sports memorabilia, they were arrested.
Morris claimed he had received the sports memorabilia from another man, according to a Salt Lake County Jail booking report.
"Micheal agreed to take the memorabilia from the male at no cost. He began searching online for the values of some of the items he had received," the report states.
While searching the web, Morris told police, he came across a story about the stolen sports items.
"He had observed news story on KSL about stolen memorabilia. He believed he was in possession of memorabilia valued at more than $100,000. He acknowledged that he held onto the memorabilia knowing it was stolen and did not call police," the report states.
Morris was arrested for investigation of theft by receiving stolen property. Smith was arrested for investigation of the same charge in addition to drug possession. As of Monday, neither had been formally charged.
Police later went back to the house they had been watching and served a search warrant. Some of the items recovered included boxes and bags of sports cards, including "two large sports cards (of) LeBron James," the return to the warrant states.
Also during the course of the investigation, detectives were led to a storage shed in West Valley City, 6594 W. Parkway Blvd., where two men, including Morris, were allegedly seen unloading sports memorabilia from the stolen trailer before it was burned, the warrant states. The men were observed by a witness who saw "racks with sports jerseys hanging on them," according to the warrant.
The witness later took a closer look and opened a handbag, and "upon opening it located sports jerseys. She also located a pair of signed football cleats inside the storage box along with display hanging type racks," according to the warrant.
Police later questioned the second man, who claimed Morris sent him a text message telling him to dispose of the trailer, the warrant states.
“Hey I need for you to get rid of that thing that I asked you to get rid of don’t give it to someone just get rid of it ok," the message stated, according to the warrant.
That second man said he also observed Morris loading black totes onto a flatbed trailer.
"Michael was unable to secure one of the totes due to containing football type helmets. Michael removed one of the helmets and threw it to (the man) stating it was valuable," the warrant states.
As of Monday, the second man had not been arrested.
West Jordan police on Monday confirmed that about half of the missing sports memorabilia had been recovered and additional arrests were possible.