LANCASTER – Last week gang detectives from the Sheriff’s Department descending on the Trading Post Pawn Shop and the duplex directly behind the store, after obtaining information that employees of the pawn shop were taking in stolen property and dealing drugs, according to a news release by the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station. Read more here.
The owners of the Trading Post Pawn Shop gave their side of the story Thursday.
Co-owners Mark Kirzner and Mikhail Gurevich said they had not seen a copy of the warrant giving deputies the right to search their store, deputies had seized licensed firearms from the store’s safe, and the raid had caused untold damage to their business’s reputation in the community.
“There is no justice here!” said Kirzner.
Kirzner said his store’s alarm company called him in the early morning hours of Feb. 15 to notify him that there was activity in the store and law enforcement was not responding to the call. He said he drove to the store from his Granada Hills home, arriving around 7 a.m., and was confronted by dozens of officers in swat gear who treated him harshly.
“They said to open the safe and go,” Kirzner said. “They said they had a warrant but nobody showed me the search warrant or gave me a copy of it. It is their responsibility to show me what they are doing here…”
He said deputies ordered him outside and then searched his store for about an hour. He said he could not immediately give them access to the safe so the fire department came in, broke the locks to his safe and then seized his weapons.
“These are legally owned, two handguns and one shotgun, they’re mine and my partner’s and never been used somewhere else, just used for our protection,” Kirzner said, before showing handgun safety certificates and receipts for the guns.
“They took our stuff and they did not give us any papers to say what it is they took, and they didn’t give us any explanation about why they broke in,” said Kirzner’s wife Gerta Zelma. “They don’t return our calls to find out what is going on.”
Kirzner said deputies raided the duplex behind his store where two of his employees were staying. He said he does not own the property behind his store and has no connection to the property. He said deputies arrested two of his employees Scott Densley, 51, and Randel Sagraves, 53, along with their wives.
Kirzner said the wives and one of the employees, Densley, were let go without being charged, and as of early Thursday morning, Sagraves was out on bail.
Kirzner said he found out why deputies were at his store only after reading about it in the media and was horrified that his business appeared to be linked to a drug operation.
“I never saw any drugs, I never saw them [employees] do drugs, if I did, I would fire them right away,” Kirzner said.
“If they take a dollar without a ticket, I would fire them right away,” co-owner Gurevich said.
Store owners are demanding their firearms back from the Sheriff’s Department, and said they would like an apology as well.
“There is no legitimate reason for them to accuse the shop,” said Gerta Zelma. “It’s been always clean, there’s no illegal activity on the premises or around the premises during the operating hours, whatever they believe they found is outside the shop and we do not have any information about it.”
Contacted Thursday afternoon, Lancaster Station Spokesman, Michael Rust said the department had followed correct procedure and a valid search warrant had been served at the Trade Post Pawn Shop.
“He has a signed by the judge copy of the warrant in his possession,” Rust said. “They were given copies of the warrant when the warrant was served.”
Rust said deputies seized two hand guns from inside the store’s safe and a shotgun that was mounted on the wall, because during business hours the guns were underneath the counter area for personal protection, and two of the store’s employees were convicted felons.
“The owner of the Trading Post did not have the weapons secured, and the felons had easy access and admitted to having access to those weapons,” Rust said. “That’s why the weapons were taken, and he will get the weapons back as soon as the case is adjudicated.”
Rust said the store’s owners were given “all the paperwork they were entitled to” regarding the confiscated weapons.
Additionally, Rust said deputies late Thursday morning had busted Trading Post employee, Randel Sagraves again, after finding a storage unit in his name that was filled with drugs.
“He has been re-arrested back at the Trading Post, so he is back in custody under a new fresh charge,” Rust said. (Read more here.)
Rust said the owners of the Trading Post were not under investigation and had not been accused of any wrongdoing.
“It was the employees that were working there at the store, but there again, the store owners had full knowledge of the employees’ backgrounds,” Rust said. “He knew full well and he, in fact, hired them back when they got out of jail, that’s why we went back today (Thursday) and rearrested the one guy, because he had a storage locker full of dope.”
Contacted late Thursday, Kirzner continued to insist that he had not seen nor did he have a copy of the search warrant.
“I already said they did not show me anything!” he said. “I don’t want to fight with them, I just want my guns back.”