Utah Jeweler Sentenced in Money Laundering Case

Salt Lake City–A Utah jeweler was sentenced in federal court last week after pleading guilty to a charge of money laundering.

Justin Christopher, 28, was the owner of the now-closed JC’s Custom Jewelry in Salt Lake City, where his father, 52-year-old Richard Christopher, also worked.

According to court documents, in April 2014, Justin Christopher signed his name as the purchaser and owner of a 2005 Lamborghini Gallardo at Ararat Auto, despite knowing the money used to buy the car came from selling marijuana. The car actually was sold to Danny Kiko Gallegos for a total cost of $102,155.55. Christopher’s name, however, was put on the car’s title, and Ararat Auto was told that the two men were brothers in order to conduct the transaction.

According to a recent news report from The Salt Lake Tribune, Gallegos had been under investigation for alleged drug trafficking and his financial activities.

Though he had no known source of income, he had large amounts of cash coming in from selling drugs, and opted to lauder money through Christopher “because he is a jeweler and jewelers can substantiate large assets and cash,” according to an affidavit. Gallegos also allegedly had robbed a number of jewelry stores and sold the purchased goods to Christopher.

Justin Christopher pleaded guilty in August to one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with the Lamborghini sale. As a part of the plea bargain, a charge of aiding and abetting money laundering was dropped.

He was sentenced Nov. 30 by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson to time served and placed on supervised release for 36 months. He also has to pay a fine of $2,500.

During the sentencing, Justin Christopher’s attorney said in court that three area men who disappeared more than three years ago–one of whom was Gallegos–were killed by Richard Christopher, the Tribune reported.

Defense attorney Loni De Land said the elder Christopher allegedly shot and killed Gallegos, Braden Parker Emerson and Levi Joseph Collins, who were last seen in October 2014.

According to what De Land said in court, Justin wanted to stop laundering money, but Gallegos insisted that he continue. The two men were arguing in the jewelry store when Richard walked up and fatally shot Gallegos in the head. He then went on to shoot and kill Emerson and Collins, according to the news story.

The bodies of the three men reportedly were incinerated and then disposed of in a canyon.

Justin Christopher had an immunity agreement as part of the plea deal, protecting him from prosecution in the deaths.

The Tribune also reported that Richard Christopher pleaded guilty in federal court to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced in October 2015 to more than three years in prison. He is in a halfway house currently, where he is expected to complete his sentence at the end of January.

The Salt Lake City Police Department did not respond by press time when asked if any charges related to the three men’s death have been filed against Richard Christopher.

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