ST. PETERSBURG — The owners of the Three Geckos and Thrift Busters pawn shops built up a loyal base of customers over the past several months.
Unfortunately for them, many of those customers actually were undercover police officers conducting a sting on shops that were blatantly accepting stolen goods, police said.
Detectives served search warrants at both St. Petersburg stores Thursday morning, arresting two men on multiple charges of dealing in stolen property.
"We do these periodically to keep the pawn shops in check," said Sgt. Kevin Noonan, standing outside Three Geckos on Thursday.
Police said their investigation began six months ago after suspects in crimes like burglary and auto theft started telling detectives about their favorite places to sell the items they took.
Two shops kept coming up over and over: Three Geckos at 2312 Fourth St. N and Thrift Busters at 3419 32nd Ave. N.
So police sent undercover officers to visit with jewelry and other items.
"The detectives were flat out telling them it was stolen property," Noonan said. "They didn't care. Just did straight cash to property transaction. No paperwork."
That's illegal, he said.
Aside from being disallowed from knowingly accepting stolen items, pawn shops are supposed to record each transaction and make the person who brings in the item fill out paperwork and produce identification.
Noonan said that is especially important because it can help police track stolen items and many times return property to victims of burglaries, robberies and auto thefts.
Arrested Thursday was John Yates Buck, 55, of St. Petersburg, who co-owns Three Geckos, and Robin Kurt Powell, 51, of St. Petersburg, who owns Thrift Busters.
Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643.