UPDATED: Two arrested over stolen guitar
UPDATED 11 a.m. Friday.
CHAMPAIGN — Two Savoy men were arrested Thursday evening when they met an undercover police officer to try to sell him a stolen guitar.
Jesse A. Evans, 21, and Frederick Young, 17, both of the 100 block of Sterling Court, were in custody about four hours after a $1,000 Gibson SG electric guitar had been reported stolen from the CV Lloyde Music Center at 102 S. Neil St., C.
Champaign police Sgt. Dave Griffet said a store employee reported that three men came in the store about 2 p.m. Thursday and were trying out different musical instruments and taking turns talking to the employee.
"It was a pretty typical attempt at distracting a single sales associate," said store co-owner Stephen Morris. "They pretended to show interest in our keyboards and certain guitars. One was looking around at the guitar accessories. There were three and one didn't look to be an enthusiast."
Morris said at the holidays, it's not unusual to have first-time customers so they continued to answer questions from the men, one of whom had entered with a gig bag, a soft carrying case for a guitar.
One of the trio left about 30 seconds before the other two.
Although Morris said he and his colleague didn't actually see anyone take the Gibson, a rather unique guitar and the last model of its kind in the store, they immediately noticed it was missing. They theorized that the thieves put the guitar in the bag they had brought in with them.
"It's pretty tough to walk out with a guitar. We believe they put it in the bag and exited. We didn't pay enough attention to what was in the bag when they came in," said Morris.
After the men left, the employee also realized his iPhone 4, which was part of a kiosk playing background music, was gone.
Griffet said his department was contacted at 2:15 p.m.. As Officer Corey Phenicie was taking the report about an hour later, a guitar just like the one stolen appeared on Craigslist, an online classified sales forum.
"I'm very proud of my sales staff. They went to our own website and Facebook page, posting the guitar and serial number and make and model. We start immediately looking at Craigslist and got a tip from one of our regular customers that I think we see our guitar. We look and verify and contact the police again," Morris said.
Phenicie then made arrangements to set up a sting to meet the seller to buy the guitar at a restaurant on South Neil Street and enlisted the help of another plainclothes officer to go in.
Griffet said just after 6 p.m., four men showed up with the guitar. Uniformed officers then moved in and detained the men while they verified the guitar was the one that had been stolen earlier. They took the suspects to the store where the sales associate identified two of them as having been there earlier. Evans and Young were arrested for burglary and possession of stolen property.
Griffet said the other two men with them were questioned and released. Police are still looking for the third man who had been in the store.
Morris said he can't speak highly enough about the "speed and efficiency" of the police department.
"In less than six hours that guitar was back in the possession of the police department. They were creative enough to create a sting and thank God these guys were dumb enough to go on Craigslist," Morris said.
Morris said the employee's phone was also recovered from one of the men.
He said theirs was also a story that showed the positive side of social media.
"There's so much negativity around social media. Here's a success story where it worked to our benefit. We got the message out to our community and it gave a heads-up to our peers and other retailers in the area," Morris said.