A 71-year-old East Naples pawn shop owner was arrested Wednesday on felony charges after Collier County Sheriff’s Office detectives determined he was knowingly involved in the sale of stolen property during an undercover operation.
Frank Ortiz, owner of Gold Nugget Pawn, 2283 U.S. 41 E., also failed to complete paperwork required by law and did not make any records of the transactions, detectives said.
Ortiz, 511 Heathwood Drive S., Marco Island, faces two felony counts of dealing in stolen property and two misdemeanor counts of violating Florida’s pawnbrokering act.
The arrest comes on the heels of the recent creation of CCSO’s new Regulated Business Section, which was formed to ensure second-hand dealers and contractors are licensed and in compliance with state law. There are currently 78 licensed second-hand dealers in Collier County compared to 30 in 2008.
“We will continue to ensure that pawn shops and second-hand dealers are in compliance with the law,” Lt. Chad Parker of the Financial Crimes Bureau, which oversees the Regulated Business Section. “Businesses that fail to comply with the law essentially serve as black-market fencing operations by providing quick cash to burglars and thieves who want to sell stolen property.”
Arrest reports gave this account of Ortiz’s arrest:
On Feb. 23, an undercover CCSO detective, as part of a compliance check of businesses that deal in the purchase of gold and other jewelry, entered Gold Nugget Pawn and asked the clerk about selling jewelry, including two gold rings. The clerk went and got Ortiz, who examined the jewelry and expressed an interest in purchasing it for $150.
The undercover detective told Ortiz he didn’t have any identification on him, as required by state law to report a pawn transaction. Ortiz then told the undercover detective to meet him at a parking lot near the intersection of Bayshore Drive and U.S. 41 E. in 10 minutes.
The undercover detective met Ortiz at the location, where Ortiz purchased the jewelry for $150. Ortiz then drove away, without asking for the detective’s identification or a fingerprint, which is in violation of the state’s pawnbrokering act.
On March 1, an undercover detective went to Gold Nugget Pawn to sell more gold jewelry. The store clerk gave the detective a cell phone number to contact Ortiz for the sale. The detective made contact with Ortiz, who told the detective to return to the pawn shop and have the clerk weigh and test the jewelry. Ortiz would then meet the detective at the parking lot off Bayshore Drive where the last transaction was conducted.
The detective went back to Gold Nugget Pawn, where the clerk weighed the jewelry and quoted a price of $256. The detective then drove to the Bayshore Drive location where Ortiz was waiting inside his 1983 Mercedes-Benz.
The undercover detective told Ortiz that the jewelry was stolen and that he did not want to see Ortiz get in trouble by displaying it in his pawn shop. Ortiz told him not to worry because no record of the transaction existed and he planned to have the gold melted down.
The undercover detective gave the jewelry to Ortiz in exchange for $256 cash.