The case of the stolen iPod

Pawn shop holds on to stolen property

For now the device is still in the possession of Chico Cash Exchange, the business that purchased the stolen property.

For now the device is still in the possession of Chico Cash Exchange, the business that purchased the stolen property.

photo by tom gascoyne

George Marley bought an iPod a few years ago so he could listen to his classic-rock collection in the car. He would leave the device on the car’s center console when he parked it overnight.

On an August morning in 2011 Marley discovered his car had been vandalized and his iPod stolen. He reported the theft to police immediately and trolled Craigslist to see if someone would attempt to sell it, but doubted he would ever get it back and bought a replacement in October.

Then came a surprise. Chico police called him last January to say the iPod had been located at Chico Cash Exchange, a pawn shop at 20th Street and Park Avenue. Marley assumed he’d be able to get it back with no problem because he had the serial number.

A serial number or ID unique to the item can greatly assist recovery because other more “esthetic clues” are generally unhelpful, said Chico Police Det. Joel Schmid.

But when Marley went to the pawn shop, an employee refused to return the iPod despite Marley’s having the serial number and the fact his name is engraved on the back. The employee also refused, he said, to give him the name of the store manager or a time to come back. Instead, the employee told Marley the store could sell it to him for the price it paid: $20.

Marley refused, saying it wasn’t the cost but the principle of the matter. He would be at a loss “times two” while the people who stole it and the pawn shop lost nothing.

When Marley offered to pay half he was turned down.

“I like pawn shops,” Marley said. “But they didn’t take the proper means or ask questions when it was sold to them. They said, ‘You’re lucky we ran the serial number.’ But, legally, they have to.”

George Marley holds up the case of his stolen iPod.

photo courtesy of George marley

Marley called it a “small potato” on the scale of what other people have had stolen, but said he wonders how many stolen iPods would be returned to people if they knew the serial number, since most are never even reported stolen.

“I’d hate to see what other people have in there,” he said, “the laptops that have been stolen and sold, and [the pawn shop doesn’t] care.”

Marley is going to court with his case for restitution and believes a judge will side with him. He argues that the shop’s employees should have asked the woman who brought in the iPod how she got it, particularly since the name on the back was not hers.

Det. Schmid explained that if a pawn shop purchases an item without realizing it’s stolen, its employees are usually cooperative with law enforcement.

The store keeps a possession right over the item until a judge makes a ruling. Schmid calls it a “50-50 type thing” in terms of the way the rulings go and said that it would be illegal for him to take the iPod from the pawn shop.

“It’s a shared interest,” he said. “The victim had it stolen. The pawn shop is at a loss. But it’s common sense. You’d expect it to go back to the victim ASAP.”

No employees of the pawn shop would respond to the CN&R’s repeated requests for comment.