Pawn shop workers charged with dealing in stolen property after St. Petersburg undercover sting

Operation Midas Touch lasted six months

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The sign at Three Geckos on Fourth St. N. in St. Petersburg reads 'Funny Name - Serious Business!,' but police say the real marketing ploy was going on inside.

"This is the culmination of a six-month investigation," said Mike Puetz of the St. Petersburg Police Department.

That undercover investigation, Operation Midas Touch, began when, according to St. Pete Police, they received a tip that Three Geckos, as well as ThriftBusters on 32 Ave. N., were knowingly accepting stolen jewelry and other goods in exchange for cash. 

Detectives were able to sell items they told clerks were stolen.

"Looks like the big stuff is jewelry.  And that's always very popular with fellows like this.  Jewelry is very easy to dispose of.  They basically weren't recording these transactions, which is required by law," explained Puetz.  

At Three Geckos,  John Yates Buck was arrested and charged with four counts of Dealing in Stolen Property.  Police also arrested Robin Kurt Powell at the Thirftbusters on the same stolen property charges.

Corey Hickman and Miranda Phillips of St. Pete say they've been into Thriftbuster before.  They were caught off guard by the news of the busts.

"That actually kind of surprised me because I mean things seemed pretty open.  I mean it didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary was going on," said Hickman.

Police say that not only were the activities that these stores engaged in illegal, but it's also a great enabler for other crime, especially burglary.

"When we have individuals like this that aren't following the law, they're taking this property in, it just expounds the burglary issues that we have to deal with normally.  If burglary stops being profitable, then it stops being a crime," Puetz said.

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