North Charleston pawn shop owner and theft ring leader pleads guilty in federal court
About $1 million worth of stolen merchandise made its way into the Patriot Pawn shop in North Charleston and then onto eBay, making the store’s owner, Eugene Walter Jones, a pretty penny in profits, according to federal prosecutors.
The 59-year-old Goose Creek man pleaded guilty Thursday in Charleston to a federal conspiracy count of transporting stolen goods in interstate commerce. He faces a maximum of five years in prison, although he won’t be sentenced for a few months.
Jones, a white-haired man who appeared in court wearing a suit, accepted and signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors three weeks ago that binds him to also cooperate with investigators. There are still several co-defendants in the case.
During Thursday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart pointed to Jones as the leader of the conspiracy that he said went on between 2007 and 2012.
“eBay notified the U.S. Secret Service they believed Jones was selling stolen goods,” DeHart said. “Ninety percent of the goods were brand new merchandise priced below market value.”
Jones recruited shoplifters to steal different products, including vacuum cleaners, computer software and kitchen appliances, from stores that included Lowe’s, Walmart and Home Depot, DeHart said.
Jones would purchase the items from his team of shoplifters at a below-market price, then sell them on e-Bay, according to DeHart.
The items were sold to buyers in several states, including Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and California, prosecutors said. Jones then would split the profits with his co-conspirators, DeHart said.
In May, Kelly Wingate, 37, pleaded guilty to her role in the scheme as a shoplifter recruited by Jones. Retired North Charleston Police Officer Danny Beacham is accused of selling those stolen items on eBay with Jones, according to prosecutors.
Jones also recruited Philip Wingate, Catherine Yants, Gerald Sullivan Jr. and Jerome Smalls to steal merchandise and sell it to the pawnshop at far less than retail value, according to prosecutors. All of them have been indicted in the case.
When authorities searched the North Charleston pawn shop and Jones’ home, they found $75,000 worth of stolen goods, prosecutors said.
It’s unclear whether Jones still owns or operates the pawn shop. His attorney, Charlie Condon, said he could not comment on the pending case. No one answered the pawn shop’s phone Thursday afternoon.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.