Pawnshop exec says receipt or letter from JP required when taking items

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

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AN executive at a popular pawnshop in Kingston, where members of the Uchence Wilson Gang had allegedly pawned stolen items, yesterday testified that it pawns items only from customers who either produce a receipt for the item that is being pawned or a certified letter of ownership from a justice of the peace.

Two employees – Jermaine Stewart and Ricardo Sirju – are among 24 people, including reputed gang leader Uchence Wilson and Corporal Lloyd Knight, who are being tried in the Home Circuit Court on various charges under the Criminal Justice Suppression of Criminal Organisations Act (Anti-Gang Legislation) and the Firearms Act.

A former member of the gang, who is a Crown witness, previously testified that one of his main roles in the gang was to pawn goods that were stolen by the gang during a number of robberies. Members of the gang, the Crown witness had testified, dealt mainly with Stewart and Sirju when pawning the stolen items.

The Crown witness had also testified that both pawnshop employees knew that the goods were stolen and that he would mainly pawn items such as cellphones, laptops, cameras and television sets.

However, the pawnshop's executive testified at the trial yesterday that a customer could not pawn an item if he did not have a receipt or letter from a JP to show ownership.

“When a customer takes in an item to pawn we ask probing questions like: how long you have the item?; why are you pawning the item?; how much you paid for it?; and how much you want to borrow?” the witness further testified.

Additionally, the witness explained that customers who desired to do business with the pawnshop, along with proof of ownership, must also produce a picture identification, be fingerprinted and sign a contract with the pawnshop.

The former gang member turned Crown witness at no point during his testimony indicated that he had asked to show any proof of ownership for the items that he had taken to the pawnshop. However, he admitted that he was fingerprinted, have given them his identification and had signed a contract.

The pawnshop executive, who indicated that she knew both former employees of the pawnshop, also told the court that the shop accepts everything, “from a pin to an anchor once it is in good working condition and is of resale value. We will take it and we will sell and pawn it from you”.

Among the items accepted, the witness said, are jewellery, cellphones, boats, aircraft, refrigerators, computers, motor vehicles and musical instruments.

“The only thing we don't take is human beings' cause we would have to feed them,” she added, eliciting laughter from those present inside the courtroom.

Additionally, the pawnshop executive, who indicated that the business has five branches in five parishes, said the data system is not centralised, hence data that is captured at one branch cannot be accessed at another.

Earlier during the trial, attorneys Pamella Shoucair Gayle and Jacqueline Cummings, who appear on behalf of the two former pawnshop employees, brought documents which showed that the ex-gang member who had pawned items for the gang had done so at two branches outside of Kingston. But the Crown witness had insisted that he only pawned items at the Kingston branch.

Yesterday, before the pawnshop executive took the stand a manager from a media company was called to testify. However, her testimony was cut short after five advertisement forms that the Crown wanted to put into evidence were deemed inadmissible after one of the requirements under the Evidence Act, which asked for the creator of the document to be present to give evidence, was not met.

The witness from the media company was there to give evidence about a phone number on one of the forms used to advertise the sale of a motor car belonging to one of the accused men.

The trial will continue today with the evidence from the pawnshop executive.


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