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September 16, 2013

Four Merced stores cited in undercover police sting

A police crackdown on businesses fencing stolen property resulted in four citations in Merced on Friday.

A police crackdown on businesses fencing stolen property resulted in four citations in Merced on Friday.

Police declined to release the names of the businesses.

“All four (citations) will be reviewed by the district attorney to determine if they will be fined,” Merced police Lt. Andre Matthews said Monday. “Most will likely obtain the proper licenses and avoid a fine.”

In recent weeks, the Merced Police Department received numerous complaints from city merchants regarding businesses buying jewelry “off the streets,” police said in a statement.

An undercover police detective contacted 15 city businesses on Friday and said four were “out of compliance,” according to the police statement. “The (undercover) officer would attempt to sell items to the employee or owner,” police said. “During the undercover operation, the officer was told several times about stores unknown to the department buying property.”

Matthews said some businesses were buying and selling property without a license, not properly documenting transactions or simply not holding onto secondhand property for the required 30-day period before reselling. “They could be buying jewelry and melting it down immediately and selling it to gold buyers,” Matthews said. “If someone had stolen your valuables, you had no chance of recovering them.”

Police did not say whether any of the businesses were suspected of knowingly fencing stolen property.

Maciel & Company at the Merced Mall was one business that police said was following the laws. Owner Kari Maciel said she supported the sting and appreciated police efforts to educate local merchants of the rules and regulations for buying secondhand gold and jewels.

Maciel said businesses that do not follow the law can have an unfair advantage over legitimate buyers and sellers. “If they’re not playing by the same rules as everyone else, it can make it very hard to complete,” Maciel said.

Matthews said there is a connection between burglaries and businesses buying and selling stolen property. Police said each business received information on how to obtain the proper license, which costs about $300, as well as information on the laws guiding documentation of buying and selling used property.

The secondhand dealers license is valid for two years. Businesses can face fines up to $1,500 for a first offense, $2,500 for a second and up to $25,000 for a third, police said.

For more information or to obtain a secondhand dealers license, contact Matthews at (209) 385-8885.

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