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Springfield Police sting uncovers pawnshop violations

May 29, 2014 |

City Council President Michael Fenton, Mayor Domenic Sarno and Police Commissioner William Fitchet speak during a press conference announcing the outcome of a sting on pawnshops throughout the city.
Reminder Publications photo by Peter Spotts

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Eight businesses were either fined or denied a renewal of their license in a police sting operation of the city’s pawnshops.

Mayor Domenic Sarno charged, “They were acting as fences.”

City Councilor Thomas Ashe said during a press conference on May 22 that perhaps the next step in regulating the city’s pawnshops is putting a cap on the number of such businesses allowed in Springfield.

Police Commissioner William Fitchet explained a sting operation was undertaken in March to test the compliance of the Pawnbroker/Second Hand Dealers ordinance that went into effect on March 1. The ordinance requires that customers attempting to sell or pawn specific items be photographed and the shops must maintain an electronic record of all transactions that is uploaded to the New England State Police Information Network. The hold period for the items is now back to 30 days.

The ordinance is designed to assist officers in returning stolen items to their rightful owners.

Fitchet explained the officers went to the 23 such stores in the city and attempted to sell gold jewelry without providing identification and posing for a photo.

The city’s law department waited until the license of the shops was up for renewal at the beginning of the month to conduct hearings. The actions taken were administrative, but Fitchet did not rule out possible criminal complaints against the businesses in the future.

The businesses found in violation were: City Jewelry, 1319 Main St., fined $600; Mark Robbins Jewelers, 6 Commonwealth Ave., fined $900; Kim’s Jewelry, 1624 Main St., fined $900; Game World, 2475 Main St., fined $300; and Emmanuel Jewelry, 1307 Liberty St., fined $900.

Three businesses were denied their licenses and will no longer be able to operate as pawnshops – Oldies From The Estate, 45 Parker St.; K & L Exchange Pawn, 1192 Parker St.; and Unlimited Pawn, 1199 Sumner Ave.

The case against Fifth Avenue Jewelry at 1655 Boston Road has not yet been resolved.

According to a written statement from the mayor’s office, “In regards to both K & L Exchange Pawn and Unlimited Pawn, both establishments are in violation of Springfield Ordinance, Chapter 270. On two occasions at both locations, the sale of stolen items (Fusion razor blades and Crest Classics Teeth Whitening Kits) was allowed without providing any identifying information or a photograph. In regards to K & L, this case is particularly egregious as a result of an ongoing Springfield Police Department investigation. Not only does this establishment have a reputation of purchasing stolen items, the owner has further perpetuated this scheme by setting up an account on eBay where she sells these stolen items for an additional profit. Such acts demonstrate a flagrant disregard for the business community and are a disservice to the citizens of Springfield.”

In a statement from the Police Department, it was noted that Unlimited Pawn and K&L Exchange Pawn “were buying stolen new-in-the-box items from drug addicted people in order to support their habits.”

Sarno thanked the Police Department and the City Council for the passage and enforcement of the revised ordinance, and said, “This operation goes to the fact that some of these establishments are aiding and betting criminal activity.”

City Council President Michael Fenton praised Ashe for his persistence in lobbying for the reform of the ordinance.

Ashe said that in considering a cap on this type of business, he would “work backwards,” looking at the number of pawnshops the city now has.

Noting there are now fewer than 30, he said, “That is more than enough.”

Both K & L Exchange Pawn and Unlimited pawn will be open on specific dates in June and July for customers to pay off existing pawns.

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