by: Monique Ming Laven Updated:
Your stuff gets stolen. You see it on Craigslist. You find the people who have it. They get arrested. You get your stuff back.
That's the way it should go, if you're ever unfortunate enough to be the victim of a burglary. That is not how it went for Alvin Beltran.
Last month, the Beltrans came home to a broken window, a trashed apartment, and a lot of their most valuable possessions gone.
Neighbors told police they saw four men leaving the property with bags apparently stuffed full of loot.
Inside were Alvin's three guitars, his camera, family jewelry, and electronics worth about $15,000.
Also gone was his MacBook with just about every picture and video they had of their adorable 14-month-old daughter.
Almost one year's worth of memories captured, now gone.
There was some hope, however. Soon after the burglary, Alvin started seeing some of his things on Craigslist, and they were all listed under the same phone number.
He called to set up a fake buy. The burglars bit -- an appointment was made for that evening. Alvin called the Snohomish County investigator to tell him, but the investigator said he could not be there for the appointment.
"We can't have detectives going into dark parking lots without back-up and without getting approval from supervisors and letting people know and having a plan in place prior to that," said Shari Ireton with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Department.
Alvin went by himself, but wisely did not actually speak to the four men who showed up. He just took some very blurry pictures of them from his car.
But, he still decided to show them to a neighbor who had seen the thieves leaving his apartment. He said the neighbor ID'ed them without hesitation, pointing to one man's bright orange tennis shoes, commenting, "Oh, that's the exact same shoes, same shirt."
Alvin called police again with the same information and told them that one of his guitar's - worth about $1,500 - was listed for $350, and he asked them to set up a meeting quickly.
But the wheels of justice in any investigation can be painfully slow. While Alvin just wanted his stuff back, investigators wanted more.
"What the ultimate goal is," Ireton explained, "is not only to return the stolen items to victim but to also prosecute the person who stole them. And to do that we have to follow a series of legal checks and balances to make sure that we are within our rights for what we need to do for law enforcement."
But by the time all their ducks were in a row, the thieves had ducked them. The guitar was already sold.
"They just come into your house and get whatever they want," Alvin said, "and then when it comes time for you to report it, there's all this process."
Ireton said investigators sympathize with the frustration, but, "We want those wheels of justice to turn deliberately. It might be slow, but we want to have a good outcome in the end."
That hasn't been the case for Alvin and his family, at least not yet. Alvin said he doesn't believe he'll ever see any of his things again, "The system doesn't work, I guess. It didn't work."
Then he pointed to other craigslist ads that were all connected to the same phone number that had listed his missing belongings. One was for a kindle, another for a prepaid phone -- random things that seem a little shady. "They're still doing it," Alvin said.