Swap meets are extremely popular across Orange County and some people even make a decent living traveling across the Southwest to various meets to sell handmade goods. While many swap meets host a lively community of artists and craftsmen, it is not uncommon to see unpackaged goods at these events. Some may be perfectly legitimate third-party retailers and dealers selling wholesale products, but there is the real possibility that they are peddling stolen goods.
Swap Meets as a Cover for Illegal Activity
Swap meets have long been known for their amazing deals and lively communities, often featuring a wide host of affordable products from clothing to makeup to electronics. These products are often purchased from designers and manufacturers at bulk rates for wholesalers to unload at various events. But individuals can still exploit these events to cover up their crimes.
In a recent year, four Gardena residents were arrested for attempting to sell over two million dollars in stolen goods at local swap meets. Among the products they were trying to sell, the police found high-end bags, luggage, sunglasses, and clothing that had allegedly been stolen from local department stores. These products were likely shoplifted or stolen through another means from the stores so that the thieves could then resell to unsuspecting customers.
This time of scheme is also common among jewelry thieves. Swaps can have dozens of stalls that feature outstanding deals on necklaces, rings, and earrings, often sold at BOGO prices. While you may think that your new necklace just has knock-off jewels, it is entirely possible that it was originally stolen from someone’s home. Los Angeles County Police Officers have cited swap meets, along with pawnbrokers and private dealers, as popular spots to offload stolen products for fast cash. Even swap meet dealers can be tricked by these schemes, as they may purchase products second-hand to resell at events without having to ask any questions about where they came from or how the thief acquired them.
Surprisingly, that ignorance is also important to building a defense case if you do receive stolen property.
California’s Stolen Property Laws
In the state of California, it is illegal to knowingly receive stolen property from another individual, either as a gift or by purchasing it. However, the most important part of that sentence is “knowingly.” A California court cannot convict you for purchasing any product if you did not know it was stolen. You may be required to return the product to the original owner and possibly receive your money back from the thief, but these charges cannot hold up if you were not aware that a crime had occurred.
That being said, you should still be careful purchasing second-hand products, especially if the deal seems too good to be true. If someone was recently robbed, the investigating officers may be more interested in landing an arrest than thoroughly confirming where you got the products. The same can also be said for dealers who acquire second-hand goods and are not fully aware of where the products came from.
While receiving stolen property is generally perceived as a misdemeanor, it can become a felony charge if the property was worth more than $950, as you may also be facing grand theft. In both situations, you will want an Orange County theft crimes defense attorney advocating for your rights. At Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, our lead attorney can review your case and build a strong defense strategy. Call us at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to ensure you receive the best representation in an Orange County court.