Busted by the Pawn Shop

Cops set up phony pawn shop, arrest 29 people

Officers working "Operation Quick Buck" ran a phony pawn shop in Evanston, known as "Leonard's Resale" -- and arrested dozens of people allegedly involved in the trafficking of stolen goods.

Evanston Police and the Cook County Sheriff's police said they purchased more than 100 items that are believed to have been the products of burglaries along the North Shore.

During the sting, undercover officers posing as Leonard's Resale employees bought the merchandise at their shop in the 1600 block of Emerson Street.  Items ranged from jewelry to bicycles and electronics. Some were brand new.

"The place was laced with cameras," said sheriff Tom Dart, who said the high tech video system allowed many North Shore departments to actually view the output of those cameras in their own police stations.

"Within days of opening our doors for business, suspected stolen merchandise began making its way into our hands," Dart said. "In some cases, offenders became regulars."

Investigators said their burglary sting morphed into a drug investigation as well. "There was open and notorious drug sales going on in front of the store," said Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddinger.

29 people have been charged. 

Dart's office detailed allegations against three of those charged:

Rudolph Crier, 55, was charged with a felony after he sold a crate full of DVDs and a pair of counterfeit gym shoes at the store.

William Cole, 42, sold merchandise at the store nine different times.  Police said he was stealing from his employer and bringing the items to the pawn shop.  He was charged with four counts of possession of stolen property.

Torrie Thomas, 26, sold car stereos, computer parts and even a $1,000 chain saw at the pawn shop.  She was arrested on an outstanding Lake County warrant for theft.

While conducting the pawn shop operation, police also discovered a few customers were involved in street-level illegal drug sales within blocks of the store.

Evanston police initiated a parallel investigation and purchased small amounts of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and psilocybin mushrooms.  During a sweep of targeted offenders in early March, police arrested 22 people, seizing three guns and a vehicle.

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