Antique dealer asks for review of license decision
July 25, 2014
By G. Michael Dobbs
Twice during an interview, Wallace went to the door, unlocked it, explained her situation and locked it again. Wallace and her husband William were caught during a sting operation by the Springfield police to check the compliance of the new ordinances regarding pawnshops. Their license as a dealer in antiques and second hand furniture was pulled as punishment.
Wallace readily admits that her husband broke law, but she believes the punishment the business received was harsher than others.
As a result, the 19 year-old business has gone from supporting the couple to now forcing them to rent a smaller shop in Ludlow than the one they own in Indian Orchard. They also bring some of their stock to various outdoor flea markets in an effort to make sales.
Wallace explained to Reminder Publications she has undertaken an effort to get her license back, but so far to no avail.
“If they don’t give me my license back soon, I’m going to close down [referring to the store in Ludlow]. I’m going to lose this business,” she said.
Wallace has a petition with dozens of names and a stack of testimonial letters from fellow business owners and customers. Her attorney has written Police Commissioner John Barbieri as well as other city officials imploring them to impose a fine and conditions to the license.
Attorney Joseph Bernard wrote in a letter dated June 29, “Taking their license for a full year is the equivalent of putting them out of business completely. They cannot survive! They are good people who have worked hard all of their lives and admittedly made a mistake during this one sting operation. There are other alternatives that the commissioner could impose.”
She believes her business received a more severe punishment from former Police Commissioner William Fitchet because her husband had lied to a police officer during the investigation surrounding the sting.
Oldies from the Estate is an antique store specializing in furniture from estate sales, but they do buy items from the general public. Wallace said that store never bought or sold much jewelry, but on March 25, her husband accepted a deal that he shouldn’t have.
According to the police report filed by Officer Mark Templemen who was acting undercover, “At about 1445 hours, I entered Oldies from the Estate at 45 Parker St. in an effort to sell a gold jewelry necklace. Once inside I approached Beth Wallace who as seated behind the counter. Beth Wallace immediately pointed me over the [sic] William Wallace. I then walked about 10 feet toward the rear counter to where William Wallace was standing. William Wallace asked if he could help me, I then removed the gold necklace from my pocket displaying it to him. He then asked if I wanted to sell it. I told him yes. I then handed the necklace to William Wallace who examined and weighed it. William Wallace then offered me $194 for the necklace. I accepted the offer informing him as long as I didn’t have to have my picture taken. William Wallace stated that he wouldn’t take my picture but was going to need to see my I.D. I told him that I didn’t have an I.D. William Wallace then told me he would do the deal with me, but was going to knock $14 off the price. He also asked if it was stolen stating ‘I need to cover myself.’ I told him that it was mine. I accepted the offer. William Wallace then counted out $180 and handed the money to me. This entire encounter took place within 10 feet of Beth Wallace. I then left.”
William violated the new ordinance by not logging the transaction and failing to record the customer’s name from an identification card, photograph the customer and the item being sold.
Beth displayed a printout from the store’s transaction log to show they had been following the ordinance.
According to the report written by hearing Officer Alesia Days, William denied the purchase to an officer doing the follow-up visit on March 26. Days also referenced in her report an incident on July 15, 2013 before the ordinance was in effect in which the Wallaces were considered “very defensive” during an investigation into items stolen during a house break in Ludlow may have been sold to a man named “Billy.”
No charges were filed against the Wallaces at the time and Beth said that some of the items turned up in a pawnshop in Springfield. The incident though was used as evidence against them during the hearing.
Wallace believes the couple was “smeared” by local media in its coverage of the press conference announcing the results of the citywide sting.
“My public image has been damaged and now people come up to me and say I didn’t know you were a pawnshop and they have a negative look when asking and I am continually defending myself that I am not,” she said.
Two pawnshops – Unlimited Pawn and K & L Exchange Pawn – also had their licenses revoked and Mayor Domenic Sarno said, “These establishments are aiding and abetting criminal acts as ‘fences.’ The pro-active enforcement of this ordinance thins out the group of bad apples and reinforces places of business that operate properly and deserve support.”
Wallace emphasized the store has never been pawnshop and she would accept conditions on the license if it was returned.
“Fine me, put me on probation, put no gold or silver [sales on the license],” she said.
Wallace said she recently met with Deputy Chief Robert Cheetham to discuss the matter. She said she was told that nothing was going to change. She said she “understood that he [William] was wrong.”
She added, “He pretty much dismissed me.”
While the Springfield Police did not return a request for comment, City Councilor Thomas Ashe, who was instrumental in the creation of the ordinance, said he has spoken to the Wallaces’ lawyer and inquired about the matter at the Police Department.
He acknowledged “many, many people have spoken on their behalf,” but what made their case worse was William denying to the officer the day after the sting that he had purchased the gold jewelry. He called it a “pretty significant error.”
He added that while he supports the decision, “I feel for them. I’m not without a heart.”
For Wallace, the loss of the license may mean the end of a business she has enjoyed so much and the way the couple has supported themselves for almost 20 years.
Looking around the shop still filled with merchandise, she said, “I want my life back. I want to live again.”
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