FAKE EVANSTON PAWN SHOP TAKES IN SUSPECTED PROCEEDS FROM
NORTH SHORE BURGLARIES
Wednesday, March 25, 2009 — More than 100 items, believed to be the products of burglaries along the North Shore, were purchased by police during an undercover operation in an Evanston pawn shop that resulted in three arrests, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart and Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington announced today.
The joint undercover operation, dubbed “Operation Quick Buck,” was conducted by the Cook County Sheriff’s, Evanston, Lincolnwood, Niles, Skokie, Wilmette and Waukegan police departments and was partially funded by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
In late October, officers opened Leonard’s Resale Shop, 1618 B Emerson, in Evanston. The store’s primary purpose was to purchase and recover stolen property taken from vehicle, commercial and residential burglaries in the area. Staffed with undercover officers, the store operated five days a week until the end of January, when it was closed and that portion of the operation was completed.
During the sting, undercover Sheriff’s Police officers posing as shop employees, purchased more than 160 items of merchandise ranging from jewelry to mountain bikes to electronics and computer equipment. Some of the items brought in the shop were brand new and in original sealed packaging.
“Within days of opening our doors for business, suspected stolen merchandise began making its way into our hands,” Sheriff Dart said. “Once the word hit the street, people came to sell their ill-gotten wares, and in some cases, some offenders became regulars.”
Among the customers charged were:
Rudolph Crier, 55, of 4629 S. Prairie Avenue, Chicago. Crier is charged with one felony count of possession of stolen property after he sold a crate of 77 DVD movies for $70 and a pair of new, but counterfeit gym shoes, at the store on Jan. 24. Evanston Police determined the movies had been stolen from an Evanston video store on Christmas Eve by an unknown offender. Crier is currently in custody at the Cook County Jail. Crier has 85 prior arrests, including two for homicide as well as 30 prior convictions including 18 for larceny, two for robbery and one for sexual assault.
William Cole, 42, of 1848 Ashland, Evanston. Cole sold merchandise to employees of Leonard’s Resale on nine different occasions. Police later determined Cole was stealing merchandise from his employer, then bringing it to the shop and selling it. Cole was taken into custody March 3 and was charged with four counts of possession of stolen property. He remains in custody at Cook County Jail. Cole has three prior convictions, including two for larceny.
Torrie Thomas, 26, of 2015 Emerson, Evanston. Thomas was a repeat customer at the store selling officers everything from car stereos to brand new computer cartridges to a chain saw worth $1,000., Thomas was arrested March 10 after police found she had an outstanding arrest warrant for retail theft in Lake County, IL.
During the operation, police utilized a remote video system that enabled officers to monitor hidden cameras in the store offsite, usually located at other police departments. The monitoring gave police the ability to identify potential offenders selling merchandise as well as other customers. The camera also provided oversight for the safety of undercover officers working in the store.
In one instance, officers remotely monitoring the shop witnessed one man take a t-shirt down from a display board and stuff it under his winter coat, while two other friends conducted business in the shop, thus distracting the officers. This offender is currently being sought by police.
In an effort to reunite merchandise bought at the pawn shop with its rightful owners, Evanston Police will conduct a viewing of all items at the Police Department, 1454 Elmwood, Evanston, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Additionally, a video featuring all the items will be available for viewing at cookcountysheriff.com. Viewers are asked that if they see property belonging to them, to contact Evanston Police. The public is asked to bring a police report detailing the item stolen along with receipts and other information identifying the item when they come to claim their property in person.
While police were conducting the pawn shop operation, they discovered a few of its customers were also involved in street level illegal drug sales occurring within blocks of the store.
Evanston Police initiated a parallel investigation into the drug dealing. During that portion of the investigation, undercover officers purchased small amounts of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and psilocybin mushrooms. During a sweep of targeted offenders in early March, Evanston Police arrested 22 people (see attached sheet) and seized three guns and a vehicle.
“We appreciate the cooperation of all the participating agencies and thank them for helping to aid in securing our community as well as remove guns and drugs from our streets,” said Chief Eddington.
Sheriff Dart and Chief Eddington thanked the Lincolnwood, Niles, Skokie, Wilmette and Waukegan police departments for their work during these investigations as well as the National Insurance Crime Bureau who provided funds to purchase merchandise brought into the pawn shop.