Ohio Supreme Court to hear unique case of jewelry stolen, pawned from local home 

Published: Tuesday, July 09, 2019 @ 3:36 AM

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear a case today involving a Washington Twp. woman who was the victim of a break-in at her home that resulted in several pieces of valuable jewelry being stolen and subsequently pawned in June of 2014. 

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The woman, Irene Danopulos, sued the Cincinnati pawn shop, claiming conversion, which is the wrongful use or withholding of someone else’s property to the exclusion of the owner. 

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The pawnshop argued it couldn’t be held liable for conversion because it complied with the provisions of the Ohio Pawnbrokers Act, which specify a 15-day holding period for the property it receives.

On June 21, burglars stole jewelry valued at $39,000 from Danopulos’ residence. After the theft, American Trading, located in Hamilton County, purchased three jewelry items from 19-year-old Steven Tyler Moore of Richmond, Kentucky, an alleged accomplice to the Danopulos burglary, records show. 

The pawnshop paid Moore $2,125 for the items and reported the purchase to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. After holding the items for more than 15 days, American Trading disassembled the jewelry, melted some of it down, and sold the materials to various buyers for $7,064, according to court records. 

A Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department detective visited the pawn shop and determined the jewelry sold there belonged to Denopulos and requested it be returned, but the shop stated it no longer had the jewelry.

In the first ruling, the trial court agreed with American Trading, but Danopulos appealed it to the First District Court of Appeals. 

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This resulted in the First District reversing the initial ruling, finding compliance with the statutes alone does not excuse American Trading if the goods were stolen.

Ohio pawnshops generally are immune from civil lawsuits for unknowingly selling stolen property if they follow procedures prescribed in state law, which is what American Trading is maintaining in the case. 

The company argues that the appellate court was not clear whether disassembly of the jewelry was the wrongful intentional act or if selling the disassembled jewelry made it liable for conversion.

Pawnshops and other secondhand jewelry purchasers regularly disassemble jewelry for sale as parts for higher prices, American Trading argued. 

Danopulos countered the pawn shop’s argument saying they should have been more suspicious when taking possession of jewels valued at nearly $40,000 from an out-of-state teenager. 

She also maintains the shop did not follow the state law, which requires the shop to provide its local police chief, not the county sheriff’s department, with a list of merchandise it purchases.

The Court will hear the case, beginning with oral arguments, this morning.