ON GOLDEN PAWN

DESPERATE PEOPLE WILL HOCK ALMOST ANYTHING FOR QUICK CASH. THAT'S WHY PAWNSHOPS ARE BUSTLING, AND THE COPS ARE BUSTING

Jachimek says he has sometimes been told to go ahead and take in stolen property for police pickup, a claim echoed by Reznik of the Jewel Box: "A lot of times they tell us, 'Go ahead, buy it if you want. . . . You might lose it, but help get it off the street.' Because if we don't buy it, the guy's gonna go sell it out on the streets . . . hopefully the victim will reimburse us."

"Absolutely not," says Sergeant Jewell to that claim. "No. Not to my knowledge has that ever been done, nor is it the policy of the police department to ask them. It puts them in a precarious position."

Detective Lockwood says, "I tell all my pawnshops, 'If you think an item is stolen, stay away from it. You're a businessman, and I can't make you my agent.'" The problem is that you can't know whether a seller actually stole the property. But with the information about Dovilla's former sale flashing on the screen, it seemed reasonable to think that this particular set of Pings might be stolen, too, and they might be worth checking on.

Ed Sierakowski says he called detectives to do just that, and Gonzalez remembers that Sierakowski was excited about the whole thing, thinking he was catching a criminal. Detectives say they don't remember Sierakowski's call. It doesn't matter: Since the clubs had been stolen that morning, they were nowhere near being entered into the stolen-property logs--the owner didn't even know they were gone.

Sergeant Jewell says that situation then becomes a little touchy. If a pawnshop dealer decides to take the property and fill out the necessary paperwork, he says, they haven't really done anything wrong, but they might end up losing the property if it turns up stolen.

Which is exactly what happened to Central Pawn. The only thing is, Alex Gonzalez got slapped with a couple of felony charges on top of it.

One of the things Central employees say they did to keep Dovilla clueless to the fact they were contacting police was to ink out the words "DO NOT BUY/STOLEN PROPERTY" that appeared on the police ticket that printed out during the transaction. They say they did this so Dovilla wouldn't know they suspected him when he signed the ticket attesting to his ownership of the clubs. But sometime during the transaction, Dovilla freaked out and ran from the store, leaving the clubs and the police ticket noting the $160 agreed-on price behind. No money changed hands.

"The next thing I remember was they were on hold," says former Central Pawn office manager Nicole Manns. "There was a lot of confusion, we didn't know what to do with them, so they [Alex and Ed] finally decided to leave them behind the counter on police hold. Then the police came and questioned Ed and Alex, and they said they were gonna charge Alex with trafficking, and it's like, what?

"I know Alex pretty well. He's a decent, honest Christian man with a family. He worked his way up. I feel sorry for him." When Dovilla ran out of the store, Central Pawn went ahead and sent in the inked-up police ticket reporting the purchase. The ticket caught the eye of civilian volunteer Joseph Fisher, the department's 1993 volunteer of the year. He reported it to detectives as suspicious.

"If we send in a police report with a black mark on it," Gonzalez says, "it's going to stick out like a sore thumb. Why would we do that if we were trying to hide something?"

Armed with the ink-blotted ticket, detective James J. Finnerty went to the store on January 19. When he found a handmade "Police Hold" tag on the clubs, Gonzalez says, he blew up and asked what the clubs were doing on hold when no officer had ordered it.

"Ed and I, we just looked at each other," Gonzalez says. "We thought we were doing the right thing."

They say Finnerty removed the tag himself. Finnerty's police report, on the other hand, doesn't mention any such tag at all.

Incredibly, Dovilla, who could not be reached for comment, is not being charged with any crime and is listed as a witness against Gonzalez.

After Gonzalez was charged, Jachimek says he had Gonzalez and Sierakowski take polygraph tests about the episode and Detective Finnerty's role; both passed easily, although the results aren't admissible in court. He says he furnished Sergeant Jewell with the results. That was in mid-February, and it was about that time that Central Pawn was taken off Detective Finnerty's beat, although no one in the department will say why.

Five months later, Finnerty retired early by applying a year of military duty to time spent on the force. "There was no pressure, no nothing," says Jewell. "He just wanted to go into business for himself."

On October 9, Jachimek filed his complaint with the department. In it, he alleges that Finnerty did not follow police procedure when told about the possibility the clubs were stolen; that he did so in order to turn the tables on Central Pawn employees; that he destroyed evidence by removing the "Police Hold" tag placed by Gonzalez on the clubs; and that he acted out of revenge (Jachimek had taken up for a time with Robin Hammond, the former girlfriend of a parking-lot owner who employed the detective when he was off-duty).

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