Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies conducted a sting during the last week that targeted a half-dozen local gold dealers in an effort to uncover illegal fencing operations.
And despite the fact that the undercover deputy clearly stated he was looking to get rid of stolen jewelry, one buyer at a Grass Valley store purchased the gold items, said Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Tripp.
Six businesses in the area were targeted after the Sheriff’s Office heard some were taking in stolen jewelry as scrap to be melted down, Tripp said.
When gold dealers buy jewelry or any tangible property, they must treat the purchase in the same way a pawn shop would, he explained.
“They’re supposed to be getting a driver’s license, getting a thumb print, taking photographs of the items and reporting it to law enforcement,” Tripp said. That way, when a theft report is taken, the stolen items can be more easily tracked.
But scrap metal does not need to be reported under those guidelines, Tripp said.
“We heard that one business owner suggested taking a hammer to (the jewelry) and making it scrap,” he said.
Sheriff’s deputies used jewelry that they had appraised, including one ring that had been engraved so it could be more easily identified, Tripp said.
The undercover deputy took the items into the stores and “told them straight out it was stolen,” he said.
Five of the businesses refused.
“One actually chased our guy out of the store,” Tripp said.
But an employee at one business, whom Tripp declined to name, did buy the jewelry.
The incident remains under investigation and the Sheriff’s Office is working with the District Attorney’s office to determine how charges will be pursued, Tripp said. It was not clear whether the business owner was aware of unlawful fencing activities occurring at the store.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.