Police Stumble Onto “Major Fencing Operation” In North Seattle

A fairly routine warrant arrest in Lake City Thursday morning has turned into a major police investigation after officers stumbled upon “hundreds of thousands” of dollars worth of stolen goods in a home rented by a man with ties to the Animal Liberation Front, police sources tell Seattlecrime.com.

The case, which initially drew the attention of SPD’s intelligence unit and the FBI, began when Seattle police and Department of Corrections officers stopped by a home in the 13700 block of 35th Ave NE  around 9:00am on August 26th, looking for a man wanted on a domestic violence warrant.

Police found their warrant suspect—who was apparently staying at the home, but does not live there—but also discovered hundreds of thousands” of dollars worth of laptops, GPS, computers, tools, stolen checks, and other items commonly taken in burglaries and car prowls, according to sources,.

Police arrested two men: the warrant suspect, and another 31-year-old man who has ties to the Animal Liberation Front, an animal-rights activist group, which has been connected to vandalism at research labs at Washington State University, a chicken exodus in Skagit County, and a firebombing at the University of Washington.

Police believe the 31-year-old man who rents the home, where he also runs a contracting business, is involved in “fencing”—or buying and selling—the stolen property.

Police served a search warrant at the man’s home Friday morning, and detectives are still combing through the house, collecting evidence and boxing up allegedly stolen goods.

Detectives have found significant quantities of what they believe are stolen items, and one Seattlecrime.com source says police believe the 31-year-old man was running a “major fencing operation.”

Another person familiar with the investigation also says the man is in a “circle of friends” with an ALF member currently hiding out in Syria, although it is not yet clear whether the 31-year-old man is providing any financial assistance to the ALF. The FBI and SPD’s intelligence unit were notified of the case, but North Precinct burglary detectives are handling the investigation.

The 31-year-old man spent a year in a Washington prison in 2003 after he was found outside of a Tukwila building, dressed all in black, with a laptop wired up to the building. The man’s laptop contained files referencing a former board member of a pharmaceutical company which performs tests on animals.

The 31-year-old man was later convicted of stealing telecommunications property. He has not yet been charged in connection with the current stolen property case.

SPD North Precinct Lieutenant Ken Hicks was at the 31-year-old man’s Lake City home Friday afternoon, and spoke briefly with Seattlecrime.com about the investigation.

While Lt. Hicks would not confirm how much possibly stolen property was found in the home, he estimated the value of the items recovered thus far in the investigation is somewhere “between a dollar, and a lot.”

Around 12:30pm on Friday, a UPS driver pulled up to the house and got of his truck with a package for the 31-year-old man who rents the home. Police told the driver no one would be able to sign for the package.

As the driver walked back to his truck, he told officers that UPS had recently “put a fraud alert on the house.”

The 31-year-old man was released from the King County Jail on August 27th.