|Authorities: More than 1,000 pieces of evidence collected in Layton’s Pawn Shop case
By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer
Authorities began logging the serial numbers of more than 1,000 pieces of evidence collected during a recent raid at Layton’s Pawn Shop into the National Crime Information Center database Monday to determine what may have been reported stolen, an investigator on the case tells the Advocate.
Among those items were nearly 500 firearms, Mt. Sterling Police Det. Aaron Noel said.
The serial numbers have been placed on a spreadsheet that staff at the Montgomery County 911 Center began logging into the NCIC, Noel said. That process is expected to take several days.
Any item that was reported stolen will be identified as possible evidence in the criminal cases against Scott Hardy, 49, owner of Layton’s, and his sister, Beth E. Willis, 52.
Authorities have already identified more than $10,000 worth of allegedly stolen goods from Walmart and approximately $8,000 to $9,000 missing from Lowe’s, Noel said.
Montgomery County Sheriff David Charles said investigators are checking old theft reports to see if they can identify the allegedly stolen firearms that had serial numbers removed.
Noel said authorities will also be starting the process of contacting those who have called recently to ask about their allegedly stolen goods.
The MSPD and sheriff’s office have reported receiving hundreds of calls about stolen and pawned goods.
Authorities say the pawned items are the responsibility of the shop.
When any of the suspected stolen goods might be returned will be up to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, Noel said.
Prosecutors will have to consider how long the items will be needed as evidence in the criminal case, which could take months to resolve, he said.
Cataloguing all the evidence has been a massive undertaking for both dept.’s.
At the MSPD, Noel said he has been assisted by Lt. Jimmy Daniels, head of criminal investigations, and detectives Kalan Perdue and Ty Combs.
He said patrol officers have also helped catalog items when they weren’t on the street.
At the sheriff’s office, Noel said Lt. Ralph Charles and Det. Robert Workman have played a big role in processing the evidence and assisting with the investigation.
Both Hardy and Willis were arrested the day of the raid. They were booked into the Montgomery County Regional Jail and released after posting bond.
Hardy posted a $100,000 cash bond and Willis posted a $10,000 cash bond, jail officials said.
Hardy is charged with two counts of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance, second and third-degree trafficking and trafficking in more than five pounds of marijuana, all with a firearms enhancement. He is also charged with engaging in organized crime, first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and receiving stolen property.
Willis is charged with receiving stolen property and engaging in organized crime.
Authorities said portions of the case will be presented to a federal grand jury for potential additional charges. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has also been involved in the investigation, continues to monitor the case, authorities said.
Hardy and Willis are scheduled to be arraigned on the local charges 9:30 a.m. today (Thursday) in Montgomery County District Court.
City police cited the business for allegedly being in violation of four city ordinances. That could potentially result in the shop having its business license revoked at some point, police said.
A woman who identified herself as Willis answered the phone at the business Monday and declined comment. She said she would forward a message from the Advocate to Hardy, but he did not return the call as of press time.
Authorities began an undercover investigation into the pawn shop about a month prior to the Dec. 17 raid after receiving complaints of stolen goods and narcotics allegedly being sold there.
Authorities said they reportedly conducted several controlled transactions involving what was purported to be stolen goods.
Investigators received enough evidence to receive a search warrant for the business, where they reportedly found numerous items of stolen property.
Authorities also obtained a search warrant for the Hardy residence next door, where they reportedly recovered firearms, stolen goods, drugs and cash.
The drugs reportedly included a kilo of cocaine and garbage bags filled with at least five pounds of marijuana, authorities said.
They also reportedly discovered a hidden room where some of the items were found, police said.
Layton Hardy, the pair’s father, had been prohibited by a federal judge from possessing firearms in 2007. The pawn shop also lost its license to pawn or sell firearms, according to police.
Layton had pleaded guilty to knowingly making a false statement with respect to information kept in the records of a licensed firearms dealer.
A criminal information charged that in connection with the acquisition of seven firearms by Rodney Brown from Layton’s Pawn, Layton Hardy reportedly “knowingly made a false or fictitious written statement on a Firearms Transaction Record Form.”
On the form, Layton Hardy allegedly stated that Cynthia West was the true purchaser of the firearms, when, in fact, he knew that Rodney Brown was the true purchaser of the firearms. The alleged offense was said to have occurred on or about Jan. 17, 2004.
Layton was placed on two years of supervised release and ordered to complete 52 hours of community service. The judge assessed him a $3,000 fine. Layton Hardy died July 4, 2019.
The Montgomery County 911 Center and Mt. Sterling Public Works assisted during the raid.