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Sting operation leads to arrest of pawn shop manager accused of buying stolen goods

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BATON ROUGE - Deputies have arrested the manager of a Baton Rouge pawn shop after they say he knowingly obtained over $1,500 worth of stolen items with the intent to sell them.

According to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, 39-year-old Christopher Osterberger was arrested after deputies found that he was buying stolen items on behalf of Bayou Gold Xotic Pawn.

Deputies first heard of the illegal dealings at the pawn shop on Airline Highway in connection with a theft at the nearby Home Depot. They say the offender in that crime, Samer Algaism, sold the stolen retail property to the shop. Algaism went on to tell deputies that Osterberger knowingly bought stolen retail property from him on multiple occasions throughout 2016. 

Two suspects involved in an unrelated theft in February, Sydney Stevens and Judd Cook, told deputies that they too had sold stolen property to Osterberger. They said Osterberger knowingly bought items they had stolen from the Sears on Bluebonnet Boulevard.

The sheriff's office reviewed pawnbroker transactions involving the three thieves and determined that Algaism had sold 240 items, all of which he says were stolen. Among the valuable items sold were power tools, appliances, electronics, and other matching accessories. Stevens and Cook sold 58 items to Osterberger, most of which were similar to those sold by Algaism. Many of these items were also listed as "new."

Deputies officially launched an investigation into the pawn shop in May. during surveillance of the business, deputies watched two suspects steal items from the nearby Home Depot and sell that stolen merchandise to the shop. The two thieves were arrested out of view of the pawn shop and questioned. Both admitted to stealing from the Home Depot and to selling stolen goods to Xotic Pawn on multiple occasions. Upon request, the two agreed to participate in the investigation of the shop.

Over the following week, the two conducted controlled sales of merchandise to the pawn shop that reasonably appeared to be stolen. During that week the shop bought at least fifteen of these items from the pair, which had an aggregate retail value greater than $1,500. 

On the final day of the controlled sales, deputies say Osterberger knowingly removed a merchant label from one of the items sold to the shop.

Deputies soon found that the shop was selling several items on Ebay which were similar to those used in the controlled sales by the sheriff's office. Records showed that the shop had sold several thousand items on the auction site since 2015, many of which appeared similar to those purchased from the offenders by Osterberger.

Osterberger was arrested and charged with illegal possession of stolen things valued over $1,500 and felony organized retail theft.

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