published Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Checks on Chattooga County pawnshops spur dispute

UNSOLVED BURGLARIES

Chattooga County from the last six months:

* Trion -- 6

* Chattooga County -- 67

Source: Chattooga County Sheriff's Office

A Trion, Ga., police investigator wants Chattooga County to revamp how it monitors pawnshops after he tried to look through an owner's records and was refused when the man called the sheriff.

Investigator Shannon Goins said that when he asked to look through the records of EZ Pawn and Guns while trying to solve a $7,000 burglary, owner Ethan Blake Jones quickly dialed Chattooga County Sheriff John Everett to ask him what to do.

After Jones told Goins he would need a search warrant to see the pawnshop's records, the investigator last week got a warrant to arrest Jones on a misdemeanor charge of refusal to produce pawn records.

According to Georgia law, any authorized law officer is allowed to request to inspect a pawnbroker's records during ordinary business hours and at a reasonable time.

But Jones' attorney, Rex Abernathy, said Goins wasn't authorized to go outside his jurisdiction and ask for pawn records. The business is in a Summerville ZIP code.

"A city officer only has power in his city," Abernathy said, adding that Goins harassed Jones for his records.

Everett acknowledged that he advised Jones to refuse to show his records because Goins was out of his jurisdiction and had "no business going into the place and demanding records."

Abernathy works for the law firm Cook and Connelly, which is also involved in a lawsuit representing another pawnshop in Chattooga. In that case, Everett and his investigator Kandy Dodd are accused of searching the pawnshop owner's home and seizing property with a faulty search warrant.

When Goins was in EZ Pawn looking for the records, he asked Everett to come down to the shop and talk with him, but the sheriff refused. Everett said he wouldn't go because he "didn't want to have anything to do with Shannon Goins."

Goins said this isn't an isolated incident, and he has at least six unsolved burglaries in the city that he believes are connected to a pawnshop. That can't be proven, he said, because the shop's records don't show each individual transaction -- which is required by law. He said he would like to see the county use a computerized system, as do some area agencies, including Floyd County and the Chattanooga Police Department.

"We're going to have to step it up," he said. "These pawnshops need to be kept in check."

The sheriff, who will be replaced by Mark Schrader at the beginning of the year, said he doesn't see a problem with how the sheriff's office keeps up with the pawnshops, but he didn't explain what it does to monitor them.

The sheriff's office has open cases on 67 burglaries, but investigators said they couldn't determine by press time how many of those incidents may involve stolen goods being sold to pawnshops.

Schrader, a former Trion police officer elected sheriff in November, said he has been notified about possible problems at the pawnshops, but he needs to look into it before making a decision on what to do.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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