Florida law permits pawn shops to request money for stolen items

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- We've all know of laws that prevent pawn shops from dealing in stolen goods. But how about a law that protects the pawn shop if a good is stolen? Well that’s the accusation one Suncoast resident has.

Stolen items often end up at places like pawn shops, and one theft victim says the laws governing pawn shops is preventing him from getting his belongings back.

"When I first walked into the room and saw it was gone, I couldn’t believe it…I felt sick." Longboat Key resident Sheldon Wolf was looking for his $2,000 racing bike that had been stolen from his condo.

The incident was part of a string of burglaries. Luckily, the person behind the crimes was apprehended and he informed officials that the was bike located at Buccaneer Pawn in Sarasota.

Unfortunately, Wolf was not allowed to pick it up.

"The pawn shop said that they would not just give me back my bike unless I paid them what they paid the theft for it."

Wolf says the pawn shop employees cited Florida law when making the request for their $100 payment. But wolf says he couldn't get himself to comply. “I just refused to do it, only because from the principal that’s just wrong. I shouldn't be victimized twice."

"The law is in place to protect businesses like ours from having crimes passed on to us," says Will Ros at Buccaneer Pawn.

Florida Statue 539 governs pawn shops, and says the claimant may recover from the pawnbroker the cost of the action.

It’s a rule that Ros says helps assure that his business doesn’t go belly up. "Gave $20 dollars for a bicycle, you take the bicycle, no one is giving me my $20 back."

But Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming says there is a way around the law. "The victim has two options, essentially. If the victim wants the property back, he or she can purchase that property for the price the pawn shop paid. If the police take the item as evidence, then we must seize that item."

Cumming says they plan to seize the stolen bike.

For Wolf, that means he may not be able to get his property back until after the theft goes to trial. "It does seem a bit like a victim is victimized twice, but it is the law. And until it changes, that’s all we have to work with."

In the meantime, Wolf says this situation doesn't sit well with him. "A pawn shop can buy and sell stolen items, and they can do that with total impunity because the law is on their side."

Buccaneer Pawn officials say not only do they not want to take in stolen goods, but their policies and procedure usually help victims get their property back.