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Curio Shop Owner Loses Permit After Arrest in Sting Operation : Crime: Glendale police say he tried to buy stolen Nintendo games. They have urged city officials to close his business.

September 20, 1990|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bohdanius (Bo) Leon Jaworsky, owner of the Collectors Camelot nostalgia shop in Glendale, believes he has stepped into the "Twilight Zone," the often frightening fantasy world depicted in a poster on his wall.

The former Sunday school teacher said he was arrested after Glendale police "manufactured" a case against him. Later, city officials refused to renew the secondhand sales permit he needs to continue selling used record albums, classic comic books and vintage baseball cards bearing images of Roy Campanella, Roger Maris and Satchell Paige.

But Glendale police say there is nothing imaginary about the Jaworsky's troubles. They allege that he has dealt in stolen Nintendo video games, and they've urged city officials to shut down his business.

The Glendale City Council was to decide Tuesday whether to hear Jaworsky's plea for a restoration of his permit. Instead, the council voted to await the outcome of his criminal trial, which begins Oct. 2 in Glendale Municipal Court.

The store owner has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of attempting to buy stolen property. Each is punishable by up to a year in jail.

Jaworsky, a 43-year-old La Crescenta resident, said he borrowed on his life insurance, sold a valuable guitar and ran up large credit card bills to open his nostalgia shop in January, 1989. Since then, he said, he has had to cope with two burglaries, a smashed store window, the criminal arrest and the city's permit denial.

"Here I am struggling to start a business, and I'm having all these things happen to me," he said. "I feel like I'm being victimized from all sides. It boggles the mind."

Jaworsky, who taught Sunday school three years ago at the First Baptist Church in La Crescenta, said he operates a wholesome, family-oriented shop at 200 E. Broadway and refuses to carry any X-rated magazines or videos.

His shelves include a Tom Corbett Space Cadet lunch box from the 1950s and a 1953 Van Nuys High School yearbook with photos of Robert Redford, Natalie Wood and Don Drysdale as students.

The German-born store owner said he became a naturalized American during the Bicentennial celebration in 1976 and has strived to be a good citizen.

"I've always been a conservative law and order guy," he said. But in the wake of his recent legal problems, Jaworsky said, "It's like we walked into the Twilight Zone."

To Glendale police, the case against the shop owner is clear-cut.

In a police report, Glendale burglary investigator Steve Carey said he launched an undercover "sting" last March after an unnamed informant told his partner that Jaworsky was purchasing stolen Nintendo games.

Sgt. Pete Michael said Glendale police have no set policy regarding when undercover ruses are used to crack a stolen goods case. But he said it is a popular investigative tool.

"A sting operation gets you results right now," he said. "It's immediate, and you get definite results one way or another, showing the allegations are true or false.

Carey said he entered the store several times wearing a suit and tie, displaying a Sears name badge and representing himself to Jaworsky as a store employee. Carey said he returned April 5 wearing a concealed microphone and talked to Jaworsky about getting video games illicitly from his workplace.

"Bo also hand-wrote a list of Nintendo products for me, showing titles he was looking for," Carey wrote.

The officer said Sears security personnel loaned him three video games, with a combined retail value of $144.97. He said Jaworsky paid $50 for the games, which were still in shrink-wrapping and bore Sears price tags.

Jaworsky was arrested April 26 after Carey returned and sold him four additional video games valued at $188.90 for $35, police said.

The store owner says he believed the Sears employee was legitimately reselling slightly damaged goods. Jaworsky said he can be heard on one of the police tapes saying he wanted nothing to do with stolen merchandise.

But in an interview Tuesday, Carey said, "It is our contention that he knowingly received merchandise that he believed was stolen. I feel that actions speak louder than words."

Mike T. Shannon, a Pasadena attorney who represents Jaworsky, said the store owner was not charged with receiving stolen property because the video games were not stolen but borrowed from Sears. The charge of attempting to receive stolen property requires a jury to find that Jaworsky believed Carey obtained the games illegally, Shannon said.

"If you listen to the tapes, it's really ambiguous as to whether he told Mr. Jaworsky the games were stolen," the attorney said.

Independent of the criminal probe, Glendale police recommended that the city not renew Jaworsky's second-hand sales permit. Carey said the administrative decision, made Aug. 28 by the city staff, was based on the police department's belief that the business is not being operated in a legitimate manner.

City Attorney Scott H. Howard said a second-hand permit is required at any store that sells used merchandise.

Jaworsky claims he cannot keep Collectors Camelot open without the permit. "It really blunts the whole purpose of this business, which is nostalgia and collectibles," he said. "I'd have to carry strictly new stuff. It would alter the character of the business, and the cost would be prohibitive."

On Sept. 3, Jaworsky filed an appeal, asking the City Council to overturn the permit denial. At Tuesday's meeting council members were to decide whether to schedule a hearing on Jaworsky's request or deny the appeal without a hearing.

But City Manager David Ramsay told council members they could also wait until Jaworsky's criminal trial is concluded, "at which time you'll have more information on which to base your decision."

The council followed that suggestion and postponed the matter until Oct. 16.

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