Pawn shops prey on addicts

Sarasota and Bradenton Criminal Defense Attorney
Peter D Aiken
Representing the Florida Accused

November 14  2018

No one can deny we have an opiate problem in America.

We can debate how that came about but we cannot deny it. The drug companies no doubt are the root cause. But drug companies are big and powerful, and like the cigarette companies, for decades, they have bought and paid for the people in politics with campaign contributions. The net result is that millions of Americans got hooked on pain killing pills. The government tightened up on the pills but now the pills have been replaced with heroin and fentanyl. Addicts need money to support their habit.

This is where the pawn shops come in.

Addicts, when they have burned through their money and relatives, turn to stealing. They steal from everybody and anybody. They steal from grandparents, employers, friends, relatives and often during burglaries. They convert the stolen goods to money at the pawn shops. The pawn shops get the goods for pennies on the dollar and sell them at a huge profit. They have to know they are buying stolen goods if the same addicts come in day after day, often with new items, still in the box.

Here in Sarasota and in Bradenton, the police and the State Attorney never go after this link in the crime cycle. They charge the addict with dealing in stolen property and defrauding a pawnbroker, but they never charge the pawn shop operator. I had a case where an addict pawned over $100,000 worth of items stolen from his employer. He went to the pawn shop almost every day during lunch break and pawned brand new items still in the original box. There is no possible way the pawn shop operator cannot know he is buying stolen goods. But who gets prosecuted? The addict does. Under the Florida Sentencing Guidelines, the addict will always “score” for prison because of the multiple transactions. The pawn shop guys turn a blind eye to the obvious, and so do the police

Addicts need help, not prison.

If the police tightened up on the pawn shops and prosecuted them for dealing in stolen property, one of the links in the cycle of crime could be broken. If you have a relative hooked in this drug cycle, it is almost impossible to get them help, until they are finally arrested. When they do, if you can get them a good lawyer, one who really knows and understands their addiction, you might be able to get them back on track. Addiction is a horrible and deadly problem. There are no old heroin addicts. Justice needs to be balanced with compassion.

Drug Court may be an option.

Veteran’s Court may be an option.



Why not just block child pornography?

Peter D Aiken
Aiken O’Halloran and Foley
Experienced Criminal Defense
Experienced Sex crime Defense
Sarasota 941-366-3506


November 5  2018

Internet providers have the ability to simply block child porn, as do the law enforcement agencies. Instead, they let it come through and make arrests. Here in Sarasota and Manatee County, over and over, the police make child pornography arrests. Law enforcement gets information from the Internet companies every time a known child pornography image is transmitted. Law enforcement has an “inventory” of known child porn hash values for millions of images and videos. Each video or image has a unique fingerprint called a hash value. They have a special application that tracks each image when it is transmitted. They then get a report identifying the address it goes to. After identifying the IP address, they get a search warrant for the address, execute the warrant, and in many instances coerce a confession.
If law enforcement has an application that identifies the contraband image, why not simply have the providers block it. In a microsecond, the transmission would be blocked and no crime would be committed. In a matter of days, law enforcement could block 99% of all known child pornography.

Don’t they have an obligation to the victims to block it if they can?

Instead, law enforcement lets it go through, simply to be able to make an easy arrest. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech, freedom of the press or censorship. If the image or video is per se contraband and per se illegal, why not just block it. It seems only logical that one of the missions of law enforcement should be to prevent crime. Detecting and prosecuting crime is time-consuming and expensive. It ties up law enforcement as well as the courts. Why not just prevent it with a simple application? I guess that makes too much sense.
In the meantime, here in Sarasota, the child pornography arrests continue. It makes good press for the State Attorney and the Sheriff. I have always thought that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The other sad reality is that most of the people that look at child pornography were at one times victims themselves. That is why they do it. Often our criminal justice system grinds up and punishes people who need help.

A blind policy of 50 years in prison does not address the problem.

It is simply wrong.