Rochester pawn shop owners accused of hiring drug users to steal items for resale

Crime

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two separate federal complaints detail multi-million dollar schemes to buy and resell stolen merchandise, and includes the recruitment of drug-addicted individuals by Rochester pawn shop owners.

U.S. Attorney James Kennedy says two local pawn shops, Royal Crown Pawn and Jewelry and Rochester Pawn and Gold, both on Dewey Avenue, would trade cash to drug addicted individuals for stolen goods that they would then resell.

The five people facing federal charges are:

  • Thomas Neary, 35 of Rochester
  • Eric Finnefrock, 27 of Rochester
  • Ralph Swain, 30 of Farmington
  • Devin Tribunella, 35 of Rochester
  • Wade Shadders, 22 of Rochester

They are all accused of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, selling and conspiring to sell stolen goods across state lines, and engaging in financial transactions involving the proceeds of stolen goods.

Those charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Additionally, Finnefrock, Swain, and Tribunella are also charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-years in prison that must be served consecutively to other sentencing, according to Kennedy.

Kennedy says Nary, Finnefrock, and Swain own and operate Rochester Pawn and Gold while Tribunella and Shadders own and operate Royal Crown Pawn and Jewelry.

The federal complaint says people struggling with opiate addiction have been stealing merchandise from Rochester area retail stores — including CVS, Wegmans, Walmart, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Target, Walmart and Home Depot — and selling the stolen merchandise to pawnshops.

The defendants are accused to have knowingly purchased the stolen, new-in-box goods from these addicts for a fraction of the retail value.

Kennedy says the defendants made false and fraudulent representations online, including user agreements with eBay and Amazon, to resell the stolen goods and ship them to buyers beyond New York state.

Further allegations state that the defendants specifically recruited people struggling with addiction who would use the proceeds of their “sales” of stolen goods to buy illegal drugs. According to the complaint, the accused typically bought the stolen merchandise for approximately 30% of its retail value.

Federal officials say between January 2015, and August of this year, Rochester Pawn and Gold’s associated resold nearly $12.5 million worth of stolen goods on Amazon and eBay and Royal Crown Pawn and Jewelry associates resold nearly $3.25 million in stolen goods on eBay.

Kennedy says this illegal theft ring fueled local drug abuse in Monroe County.

“In 2018, 930 people overdosed in Monroe County,” Kennedy said. “Of those, 542 (more than half) had a history of selling stolen merchandise to pawnshops. Similarly, as of September 24, 2019, 228 of the 522 individuals who have overdosed in Monroe County so far this year, have a history of selling to pawnshops.”

Kennedy says this cycle of theft and re-sale has also resulted in Monroe County having some of the highest incidents of retail theft in the country, according to statistics maintained by nationwide retailers.

“The conduct of RPG and Royal Crown was egregious,” Kennedy said. “It’s one thing to come up with a scheme that deprives retailers of their profits.  However, it is unconscionable to devise a scheme, as these defendants are alleged to have done, in which success is defined as the ability to get drug addicted individuals to do your dirty work by rewarding them with the means to do further harm to—or even kill—themselves.”

Crime scene tape was seen at Royal Crown Pawn and Jewelry on Dewey Avenue after federal agents raided the business Thursday.

Crime tape surrounds Royal Crown Pawn and Jewelry on Dewey Avenue in Rochester. (News 8 WROC Photo/Dan Gross)

Three cars were seized Thursday, including a Lamborghini.

Tribunella is the same man who was charged in Rochester with leaving the scene of a property damage accident after a yellow Lamborghini crashed into a fire hydrant on East Avenue in May of last year. The crash caused flooding, but no one was hurt.

Rochester Pawn and Gold complaint

Royal Crown Pawn and Jewelry complaint

Full press conference:

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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