Police sorting out recovered booty

Police sorting out recovered booty

URBANA — It could be months before Champaign police are able to figure out the rightful owners of hundreds of stolen electronics recovered from a business owner accused of acting as a fence.

In court Friday, a prosecutor painted a fairly elaborate ongoing scheme employed by Kirit Patel, 43, also known as "K.P." to buy mobile phones and computers that he knew were stolen at way below market value then resell them, sometimes in other countries.

"It's a very tedious process. Unfortunately, it's not something quick," said Champaign Sgt. Dave Griffet, one of about six detectives who spent most of Wednesday and Thursday seizing, photographing and trying to organize evidence taken from Patel's east Urbana home and his Champaign business.

Those items included 120 cell phones, 63 personal computers, two digital cameras, 191 bottles of designer cologne, and scores of miscellaneous items such as televisions, hover boards, cash registers, gaming systems, and stereo equipment. The total value was estimated at $75,000.

Patel, who lives in the 1600 block of Bermuda Avenue, owns the Krispy Krunchy Chicken restaurant at 922 W. Bradley Ave., C.

Dishonest citizens went there with their hot loot to transform it into cash, according to Assistant State's Attorney Will Lynch, who gave the facts to Judge John Kennedy so that he could set bond for Patel.

Patel indicated to the judge that he understood the wordy charges against him, including three counts of money laundering and one count of theft. All are Class 3 felonies with penalties ranging from probation to two to five years in prison. The charges allege criminal activity that occurred between Jan. 30 and April 11.

Griffet said detectives used confidential sources in their investigation.

Among the details Lynch laid out was that police had court-authorized recordings of Patel explaining how he wiped the phones and evidence that showed him checking the phones' manufacturer number against online databases to learn if the phone had already been "blacklisted" by a manufacturer, which has the effect of rendering it inoperable in the country in which it is reported stolen.

Lynch said on Feb. 9, for example, Patel paid a police informant $70 from the chicken business cash register for two Apple phones worth $250 each.

The source told him they were stolen and that he should not pawn them. Patel reportedly replied that he does not pawn but instead unlocks the phones, wipes them clean and ships them overseas or out of state.

The source told Patel that he knew people who could steal items that Patel might desire. Patel reportedly told the source he preferred laptop computers and Macbooks.

Lynch said Patel paid confidential sources with money from the cash register and his own pocket on at least five occasions between January and April 6.

Griffet said not only was Krispy Krunchy Chicken searched on Wednesday but so were the adjacent Lucky Diamond Gaming Parlor and Blue Star Convenience Store.

That's because Griffet said police have known for years that people who had phones or computers stolen reported tracking them to those addresses. Griffet said Patel formerly worked at Blue Star before he bought the Krispy Krunchy Chicken.

"The burglary reduction unit has investigated a number of residential burglaries and individuals (responsible for them) who have identified "K.P." as a person who is known to buy stolen stuff," he said.

As the searches of the businesses were going on Wednesday, police also were at Patel's home, where his wife and daughter were present.

"It was filled with electronic items. He had quite a bit of merchandise and I was surprised he had not gotten rid of a lot of things," Griffet said.

Patel is represented by Champaign attorney Steve Sarm, who asked for a $25,000 bond. Sarm noted that Patel had no violent crimes in his past and that this is the most serious offense he's ever been charged with.

Lynch said since 1998, Patel has been convicted three times of misdemeanor driving under the influence; three times of driving under revocation and one time each of possession of drug paraphernalia, obstructing justice and failure to notify a person of property damage.

Kennedy set Patel's bond at $100,000 and told him to be back in court June 12.

If he's unable to post $10,000 to win his release by next week, he will be back in court Tuesday for reconsideration of the amount.

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