A friend told me about this blog and recommended that I take a look. After reading what your organization does, I’ve decided to write an outline of what happened to me in Tallahassee. If you find any interest in investigating my situation, I would be more than eager to work with you in stopping this injustice.
Before the recession put me out of business, I was in a real estate related business in Metro Atlanta, GA where I still currently reside. My savings kept me barely afloat for a little more than a year while I searched for another opportunity. After researching the Great Depression, I became interested in buying and selling gold. With more research, I learned how to test scrap gold, silver, and platinum jewelry. Then I located a local metals refinery that bought scrap jewelry from scrap jewelry buyers. After asking many questions, I opened an account with them, invested in the necessary equipment, then set out to buy scrap jewelry from the public.
In the beginning it looked like the scrap jewelry business would be a failure. Many people had already sold their scrap jewelry once gold hit an all-time high of $800 an ounce, and there was so many gold buying sources here to compete with. A south GA friend suggested that I try the rural areas. So I did.
In the rural areas there was less competition and most of the gold buyers were not paying as much as myself and other buyers in the Atlanta area. So I begin working in South GA 3-4 days a week. After a few weeks I began to get a few sellers to purchase from every day, most of them were via referrals. Because I was working so close to the GA/FL state line, I eventually got referred to family members from sellers in GA that resided in North FL, Havana and Tallahassee.
On a Monday night during Thanksgiving week, I received a call from a man who said he was in Havana, FL wanting to sell scrap gold. I told him that I didn’t work after dark for security reasons but would be glad to meet him the next day in Tallahassee. We met the next day about noon. He pulled out a small plastic bag and held it out toward me. I told him that I don’t buy stolen jewelry, and asked him if it was stolen. He shook his head, no. So I asked again twice, he responded, “No”.
After making the purchase and driving away, I was pulled over 5 miles up the road by a Leon County Sheriff patrol SUV. An unmarked late model flatbed truck with a rear seat soon appeared. 3 plain clothes detectives unloaded the truck. They informed me that the man I had just purchased gold from was an undercover officer, and that they wanted to question me about stolen goods.
At the Sheriff department, I insisted that I was not there to buy stolen jewelry, and that I asked their undercover officer if the jewelry was stolen. They said they recorded everything and that I did not ask if it was stolen.
In the end, I was charged with a felony; dealing in stolen property, and a misdemeanor; operating a second hand metals business without a business license. Once they discovered that my car was paid for, they forfeited it along with my cash.
Almost 3 months later, I’m sitting in Judge Terry Lewis office with a criminal lawyer for a probable cause hearing regarding the forfeiture case. The detectives explain that there were 5 burglaries in Gadsden county where only gold was stolen. The dates these burglaries began were 2 months before I’ve ever entered FL to buy gold. They said an informer told them that I was in the area buying gold, so they just put 2 and 2 together, and came after me. They also admitted that no one ever complained about me buying stolen goods of any kind, nor did anyone claim to have sold me any stolen goods of any kind.
I told the judge that I asked the undercover officer if the jewelry was stolen more than once. The judged asked him if that was true. The undercover hesitated, so the judge asked him again. He shook his head and said, “No”. The judge then asked the detective that was in the unmarked truck doing that actual recording if he heard me ask anything that sounded as if I asked if the jewelry was stolen. He responded with a long chuckle, “No judge. In fact, the entire recording is not auditable”. The judge then asked for a copy of the recording. They said that they didn’t bring it. The judge then asked for a transcript of the recording. They said that it wasn’t finished yet.
After making several requests and 5 months after my arrest, the Leon County Sheriff Dept. finally gave me a copy of the recording. And there it was loud and clear; me asking if it was stolen, and the undercover clearly responding, “No”.
I was arrested Nov. 23, 2010. I pleaded guilty to operating a business without a license and paid a $325 fine plus $25 for court cost to settle the criminal charges. To this day the Leon County Sheriff Department still has my car and money. They will not give me a trial date, but every other month they try to negotiate my own property back to me; they will give me back my money, but they want to keep my car.
I’ve contacted the Florida Department of Law enforcement. They checked my case out and agreed that the officers committed perjury but will not intervene. They advised me to call the state attorney’s office. I told my story to a man at the state attorney’s office, but he kept trying to convince me that not telling the complete truth during a probable cause hearing wasn’t perjury. When I explained to him that I had looked it up, and lying during an official hearing was perjury. He hung up on me.
This act of making up felony charges needs to stop. They were way too comfortable the entire time while doing this to me, so I’m sure they’ve done it in the past and will do it again.
Well, that’s what happened, and is still happening to me. Hope to hear from you soon.