A two-day Kern County Sheriff's Department compliance check of second-hand businesses found most were operating illegally and therefore could be helping burglars profit from their stolen goods, officials said Wednesday.
The department, in a late afternoon news release, defined the businesses targeted as those involved in the purchase, consignment or pawn of second-hand goods such as jewelry, gold, silver, appliances or any other serialized item.
The businesses are supposed to follow various California Business and Professions Code regulations -- and many are not, the Sheriff's Department said.
Businesses must be licensed. They must create a record of customers who sell them items, including customers' fingerprints. Each item sold to the business must be reported to a sheriff's or police department at the end of each day.
Businesses must wait 30 days to resell the items.
There were 52 licensed second-hand dealers in Kern County when the inspections started, according to the news release. On top of that, it said, there are many unlicensed dealers.
Of the licensed businesses, only six in Bakersfield and six in outlying areas were following the rules before the investigation ensued, officials said.
During the operation -- on Dec. 19 and 20 -- sheriff's deputies checked 50 licensed and unlicensed businesses. Fourteen were licensed and following the reporting laws. Seventeen were no longer in business or could not be verified. And 19 were not licensed or not following the law, according to the news release.
"By operating outside the law, each of these businesses are making themselves a conduit for stolen property, acting as fences for the numerous items being stolen from homes, cars and businesses in the area," the news release read.
Each business that was checked was given information on what the law requires, it said.
Sheriff's detectives also investigated a similar, but unrelated, case involving a business that was making tens of thousands of dollars a week off of stolen jewelry.
Two weeks ago, sheriff's officials got a citizen tip about the business in the 1300 block of Chamberlain Avenue.
"Hoodlums, juveniles and gangsters," as witnesses described, would come to the business with loose jewelry in their hands, according to the news release.
Items the business didn't take would end up in the trash. Detectives found a large amount of jewelry, watches, engravings and a jewelry box in a nearby trash can, the release said.
Gold items the business got were immediately melted down and cashed in, according to the news release. But detectives were able to seize silver coins, collectable silver items, sterling silverware and silver ingots.
Detectives are trying to identify the owners of the stolen items. Many of the coins and ingots have traceable serial numbers. One half-dollar had an unusual number stamped on the back detectives believe is of significance to its owner.
Detectives also found a few high-end watches, a Cal State class ring and a charm bracelet with charms of the names and birth dates of six children.
Anyone who has had any collectable coins, ingots, watches, charm bracelets or class rings stolen within the last year was asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org. The email should include your full name and telephone number, the crime report number the theft was reported under and jurisdiction, a detailed description of the items including the year for coins and photographs if you have them.
Detectives will only call people whose description is sufficiently detailed to make a reasonable match.
Investigators expect to file a criminal case against the businessman when the investigation is completed, the news release said.