Three rare books of Mormon stolen
October 22, 2004
RENO – Reno police have recovered two of three Books of Mormon stolen in a $400,000 theft, but say an 1851 edition of the Book of Mormon valued at $17,000 and eight statues remain missing.
A Utah art dealer hauling the bibles and religious articles stopped at a Reno casino for dinner before heading to an art show in the San Francisco Bay area.
Police said that minutes after Lee Snarr left his vehicle Oct. 11, thieves disengaged and towed the trailer, which contained three mint condition Books of Mormon from the 1800s – one valued at $110,000 – and sculptures of Mormon religious figures and Abraham Lincoln.
Two of the three books were recovered and two suspects were arrested. Police said one of the suspects allegedly gave a $110,000 Book of Mormon to a man who tried to swap it for a used car.
Detective Jack Wilsey said Snarr had buyers lined up in California for the items. He said Snarr called every West Coast book dealer he could find and asked them to be on the alert for anyone trying to sell his stolen books.
On Oct. 14, a Reno bookstore owner said a man had tried to sell one of the books.
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The next day a Secret Witness tip led detectives to a Sun Valley trailer park where they found Snarr’s utility trailer parked next to a mobile home.
The owner of the mobile home, Mark Sanders, 39, was arrested Oct. 15 on suspicion of possession of stolen property and later posted bail.
Police found the Books of Mormon on Tuesday after a man tried to trade the $110,000 book for a used car at a Reno car lot, police said.
The prospective buyer told police Ernest Ortega had given him the book. Officers found Ortega, 39, living in a camper trailer parked on Linden Street.
Ortega was arrested Wednesday on two counts of possession of stolen property and possession of methamphetamine. He was booked into the Washoe County Jail and held in lieu of $6,000 bail.
Ortega told police he gave the second Book of Mormon, valued at $60,000, to a woman who gave it to her brother. The brother Thursday morning turned in the book to detectives, Wilsey said.