EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — The owner of a popular coin shop in Evanston has been jailed, on allegations some of his biggest customers were crooks, and he knew it.
CBS 2’s Brad Edwards spoke one-on-one with an undercover agent who led the charge to arrest James Coello for buying thousands of dollars in stolen coins, jewelry, watches and other valuables.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Police special operations investigator works in the shadows of deep cover.
“You gotta act like you’re a guy off the street, and you’re doing the burglaries yourself,” he said.
The investigator said shops that knowingly buy stolen goods only enable the thieves who sell the loot.
“Once they find a local place that they can unload their stuff, they’re gonna continue to do residential burglaries, because they know they can steal it in the morning, and get rid of it in the afternoon,” he said.
Investigating a rash of burglaries in Evanston, police there were tipped off that booty from the heists was headed to North Shore Coins.
The store has been shut down, maybe for good. Its display cases are empty,
The owner, James Coello, has been arrested and ordered held on $250,000 bail, charged with one felony count each of theft, organizing a financial crimes enterprise and continuing a financial crimes enterprise.
The undercover investigator said Coello was known within the criminal element to buy stolen goods.
“Specifically, any kind of gold, any jewelry, silver, anything that can be melted down – he was the place to go to,” the officer said. “Selling it for cash for no questions asked, no ID’s needed.”
The case has been particularly irksome for police. The officer said police normally count on jewelry store and pawn shop owners to help them solve crimes.
“This is how we solve our crimes, our burglaries. We have subjects from pawn shops contact the police departments of exactly what they take in every day, and especially if they expect it to be stolen,” he said.
But Coello was allegedly only too willing to buy stolen goods, without informing the police.
“When we come in with an undercover, he’s more than welcome to meet you in the middle of the night, at any time, gave out his cell phone number, and said ‘Please bring me as much as you can,’” the officer said.
The undercover officer said this case was a victory – by helping put thief crews on warning that their buyer is out of business. He said he even got a compliment from Coello.
“He, at one point, said that we did an excellent job in fooling him,” the officer said.
It’s believed much of the stolen jewelry, and gold was melted down, and resold. Some of the goods from recent robberies were seized, so victims of recent robberies might get some of their belongings back.