During the course of investigating several summertime residential burglaries, local law enforcement officials learned that jewelry stolen during these break-ins had been sold to local gold and silver buyers.
According to the burglary suspects, they were doing this to finance their controlled substance addictions.
Based on this information, members of the Burglary Task Force began testing the knowledge of local gold and silver buyers by using undercover operatives to attempt to sell “stolen” property.
According to Clallam County Sheriff’s Office sources, on more than one occasion Michael VanAusdle purchased items he was told were stolen. The transactions occurred at a section of a local consignment store VanAusdle operates in downtown Port Angeles.
VanAusdle was arrested at his place of business, Port Angeles Antique Mall, 109 W. First St., by detectives shortly after 2 p.m. on Feb. 15 during the service of a search warrant. He was booked into the Clallam County Corrections Facility on charges of trafficking in stolen property first degree and possession of stolen property second degree.
Operations of this nature and business compliance checks will continue to make sure that those who purchase items targeted by burglars are operating legitimately. While no jewelry was recovered, Detective Sgt. John Keegan said that it’s possible to traffic stolen property without knowledge of the offense.
Because of this, Keegan urges second-hand store owners to watch whom they buy from. If an 18-year-old is trying to sell a wedding ring, a Rolex and a gold bar, Keegan said, a shop owner might want to ask some questions.
Trafficking in stolen property in the first degree is defined by RCW 9A.82.050 which states, “A person who knowingly initiates, organizes, plans, finances, directs, manages, or supervises the theft of property for sale to others, or who knowingly traffics in stolen property, is guilty of trafficking in stolen property in the first degree.”
Trafficking in stolen property in the first degree is a Class B felony.
The Burglary Task Force is comprised of detectives of local agencies including the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, the Port Angeles Police Department and the Sequim Police Department.