PORT SAINT LUCIE, Fla. - A Treasure Coast pawn shop owner is free on bond; however, he's out of thousands of dollars worth of gold jewelry after police said he was caught buying what could be stolen merchandise. Port St. Lucie Police arrested 58-year-old Robert Joseph Smith of Fort Pierce for not asking for identification when he was buying from customers.
His business, Joe's Gold and Music Exchange on Southwest Brighton Avenue, is allowed to be open as long as he follows the law and Port St. Lucie ordinances.
Smith is facing 23 misdemeanor charges for allegedly buying gold, no questions asked. Pawn shop owners are required to document every item they buy. When an undercover officer approached Smith to sell $500 worth of jewelry, police said that never happened.
"During that transaction there were no questions asked," explained Port St. Lucie Police Sergeant Tom Nichols. "The undercover officer was asked for no photo ID, filled out no paperwork and did not even provide a thumbprint that's required for the transaction on the pawn paperwork."
Inside the shop, police found more undocumented jewelry: more than 350 pieces in all, valued at about $65,000 dollars. Sergeant Nichols says most pawned jewelry looks generic. Unique items, like charm bracelets and other custom pieces, raise red flags and are easier to identify.
Sergeant Nichols said documenting each piece and allowing for the city ordinance's required 30 day waiting period before it can be sold again is for everyone's protection.
"There are some people who sell stolen items," he explained, "and it gives the Port St. Lucie Police Department more time to investigate burglaries that involve property that's being stolen and is later being pawned."
The confiscated jewelry remains in the custody of the Port St. Lucie Police Department. Detectives are sorting through it to try to find out what may be stolen and what's not. The legitimate pieces may eventually be returned to Joe's Gold and Music Exchange; however, right now police are considering all of it contraband.