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Police conduct undercover stings at scrap gold businesses

Rex Barber • Jan 26, 2012 at 7:11 PM

Johnson City police are cracking down on scrap gold businesses in the city that do not properly document customer transactions.

Two recent undercover sting operations by police resulted in citations being issued to two people at two gold buying businesses in Johnson City. These businesses were owned by the same company, but police did not identify the businesses or the people cited.

However, two police reports recovered by the Johnson City Press stated a confidential informant went to Lilly’s Gold Exchange, 1011 W. Market St., Jan. 19 and sold a gold bracelet and a men’s wedding band. The informant gave a false name and provided no identification for record keeping purposes.

Police said in the report that only the ring was recorded and reported to the police department.

Also on Jan. 19 a confidential informant went to another Lilly’s Gold Exchange at 3100 N Roan St. and sold four gold rings under a false name and with no identification. These rings were reported to police, but the seller information was incorrect.

Between these two reports, only one person was cited.

Johnson City Police Department Lt. Steve Sherfey would not identify the businesses targeted for this undercover sting, said the undercover operations were initiated after the department received complaints about those businesses.

Sherfey said because a lot of burglaries result in stolen gold and jewelry that wind up in metal and gold buying businesses, it is important for these businesses to record everything for court purposes.

Recent burglaries where jewelry was stolen actually prompted the undercover stings.

“It’s kind of hard to go into court with a pan full of melted gold,” he said.

In May 2011 the JCPD put out a news release notifying businesses that deal with scrap metal and gold that they must comply with the new laws regulating such transactions. Each business dealing with these metals in Johnson City was notified by the police department and each signed documents acknowledging the new laws.

Sherfey said to be fair, the department would eventually conduct undercover stings at each gold buying business in town to deter the buying and selling of stolen property.

“It’s going to be an ongoing thing,” he said of the stings. “And I believe most of the businesses do what they’re supposed to do.”

Sherfey said if owners of gold buying businesses do properly train their employees to record each transaction, jewelry thieves will have to rethink their strategies.

“I think once the owners crack down on this, the bad guys will quit taking them there,” he said. “They’ll find somewhere else to take it.”

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