What Happens If you Buy Stolen Items From A Pawn Shop? - WSPA.com

Picked & Pawned: What Happens If you Buy Stolen Items From A Pawn Shop?

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They steal and sell it and you end up buying it. Some of the stuff on the shelves at pawn shops came from shoplifters. They steal and sell it and you end up buying it. Some of the stuff on the shelves at pawn shops came from shoplifters.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -

You can find pawn shops popping up all over the Upstate, tempting shoppers on nearly every corner. Inside shops like Morgan Square Pawn in downtown Spartanburg and Westview Pawn on South Blackstock Rd in Spartanburg, the shelves are stuffed and the merchandise is always moving.

"I like to see what he's got, maybe something new," said Bill Watson. Watson is a frequent shopper down on Morgan square at Tommy Cato's place. He said he trusts Cato and the items he had in his store but thinks it still would be hard to identify if something he wanted to buy, was stolen.

Many people also pawn items at the shops to get some quick cash. It's a lot of goods moving in and out most owners told 7 On Your Side and there are regulations that owners must follow to make sure no one breaks the law.

"It's kind of a gut feeling and we try not to take anything stolen," said Jerry Jones at Westview Pawn.

"The word gets out that you do these things and the bad guys don't come in here," Tommy Cato agreed.

Spartanburg Public Safety has been fighting a brutal battle against shoplifting for years. Lt. Bernard Brewton told 7 On Your Side that in 2012 more than 6000 pieces of property were stolen in the city. More than 2000 were recovered he said and some were found in pawn shops. That means you could be caught up in a crooks handiwork.

"It's a quick transaction. There may be little or no negotiation at all regarding the item will be sold for. You present ID and you're out of there with money," Brewton explained about a pawn transaction.

So 7 On Your Side asked what are officers doing to keep these ripped off items from being set on pawn shop shelves. The answer is quite a lot. Brewton said officers scan through hundreds of pawned items in shops across the city to see if they match up with something reported stolen.

The items officers said are most likely to end up stolen are things you might see or even buy everyday like lawn equipment, electronics and jewelry. A volunteer at the department goes through items and works hard to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Officers look for clues that you can also keep an eye out for like an item in its original wrapping, a price tag still on the item from a different store or an item without it's original receipt available.

"I'd say with jewelry, if you've got a Judy Blant and its got the initials SL on there, I'd say it's probably not hers. One time I had a woman come in to pawn a gun and she didn't know a thing about it. She brought in her so called husband who she said owned the gun and I wouldn't take it. Turned out it was stolen," said Jones.

Shop owners check each customer's ID and get contact information and keep a description of the item.

At Morgan Street Pawn, Tommy Cato snaps their picture. It's an extra step he said he takes to help law enforcement.

"We ask a lot of questions and when we buy things we have to hold them 7 days and turn it into the police department and that gives them time if something is stolen, for it to be reported," said Cato.

7 On Your Side checked to see what would happen if you purchased something that was in a pawn shop, and was stolen. Investigators said if you had no knowledge it was nabbed, you're in the clear. If you bought something you knew was lifted, than you'll be charged with receiving stolen goods officers explained.

To keep you safe investigators go door to door asking shops to sign on to "Leads Online". It's a website where shop owners enter information about items in their store and the people who pawned them. Police can search that database for an item that's been reported stolen.

"It's business friendly and law enforcement friendly and it costs nothing for the business to register with that service," said Brewton.

Shop owner Jerry Jones said it isn't good business to buy stolen goods

"It's expensive if you take stolen stuff and you lose money you put in so it's not right that way and it's the wrong thing to do anyway.

Many customers said they had no problem tolerating the extra checkpoints to guarantee a clean checkout and get a great deal.

Click here to view penalties for shoplifting and receiving stolen goods.

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