ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KPLR) - A string of St. Louis County home burglaries is now solved, thanks to a gold buyer.
Throughout a 3-month period, police say 29-year-old Jessica Rayman snuck into several south St. Louis County homes, usually through a window, and stole jewelry, and other valuables.
In at least 3 of these cases, investigators say she handed the jewelry to 27-year-old Stephanie Ernst that same day. Then they say Ernst traded the contraband for instant cash at Missouri Gold Buyers on South Kingshighway, but not before the gold buyer snapped a photo of her driver’s license, along with the jewelry she sold and the amount paid, with a date and time stamp.
This photo log is required by law. It’s the brainchild of Missouri Gold Buyers owner Mike Duke. He explains, “When I got into the business, there was no law governing the buying of scrap precious metals. So I worked with police and a local alderwoman, and we came up with a process that’s now used throughout the state.”
Every day, Duke sends a photo of every purchase and seller to St. Louis City and County police. Then he holds each item for 5 days. The jewelry and the seller are all in one convenient digital image. St. Louis County Police Officer Shawn McGuire says, “At that time our detective contacted the victim, explained the jewelry, showed the picture of what was sold, and that’s when the victim said that was their property.”
Unfortunately, the stolen jewelry was already melted by the time the victims realized it was gone.
The seller, Stephanie Ernst, is now charged with 3 counts of receiving stolen property. She confessed.
Jessica Rayman is charged with burglary and stealing over $500.
It goes both ways. If police know a certain item was stolen, they’ll alert the gold buyers, so if the item shows up in their shops, the gold buyer will call police. Duke says that’s how he helped recover a pear-shaped diamond last week. He explains, “They came to us and said it’s a young lady, about the age of 35, shoulder length brown hair, white jacket driving a blue SUV. Well the same lady pulled up, and the key was, she had a pear-shaped diamond.”
Duke paid the woman for the diamond, and then called police. The woman was arrested almost immediately. In all, the gold buyers’ partnership with police has led to hundreds of arrests.