Illegal pawn shop bust in SE Fresno

January 9, 2013 12:42:50 AM PST
Fresno police have a new strategy. Targeting burglars by going after the people who buy their stolen goods. Members of CCAT, or the Career Criminal Auto Theft Team say the strategy worked when applied towards "chop shop" operations as it successfully reduced vehicle theft rates. They hope applying the same method will help reduce the city's burglary rate.

Undercover officers targeted the Fresno Gold Stop pawn shop. On six separate occasions, the owners bought jewelry from police, even when officers specified that it had been stolen. Sgt. Tim Tietjen tells Action News, "They had this property and they looked around and said, hey this is stolen, and the guy said hey we're great with that, bring us more, it's very obvious they're in the business to make money and get gold and didn't care where it came from."

Tietjen said the owners, Hassan Akram and Isaak Matar registered the business with the city and with Fresno police. They operated out of El Palacio furniture store on Kings Canyon, near Jackson in Southeast Fresno.

The owner of El Palacio said he leased a small place to Akram and Matar and thought they operated a legitimate business. Jose Perez said, "I was surprised because they have been working good with me and I haven't seen anything wrong until now."

Police raided the business, and two apartments, one in Fresno and one in Clovis. They found computers and thousands of dollars in jewelry.

Tietjen said, "There's legitimate good pawn shops in the city of Fresno. But there's a lot of illegal shops that are creating the need for stolen property and are buying stolen property."

Debbie Sivas, who's owned and operated The Ritz jewelry store in Fresno said, "The guys who don't do it right make it bad for the guys who do do it right."

Sivas has bought and sold jewelry for 30 years and prides herself on following the rules. Pawn slips are required and must be submitted to the city along with the seller's information and fingerprint. She says, of course, she's been duped; unknowingly bought stolen property, but it's never been a problem as she could provide her paper trail. "We've turned away a lot of business like that because it only causes problems and usually within the first 3-5 days something happens."

Police are working to find victims and hopefully return some of the stolen jewelry. The owners of the pawn shop were charged with receiving stolen property.