Marjorie Mahan says she never thought thieves would break into her home to steal her jewelry. She also never thought she would be told she had to buy it back once it was recovered.
Mahan is an 82-year-old grandmother who has been living alone in her south Bakersfield home since 1997. She says when she returned from a day trip last month, she realized her jewelry boxes, credit cards, and laptop had been stolen.
“Police called me and told me they had good news for me, they had picked up these people because the same people had robbed Smoke Tree mobile homes," Mahan says.
Kern County Sheriff's deputies arrested Miguel Tinoco, Eladia Chavez, and Jesus Bustos last week. Mahan got her laptop, credit cards and some of her jewelry back, including her gold bracelet engraved with her name.
"They took that and rings, and my sister left me about 12 watches,” she says. “And, of course, they took all that."
Detectives told her some of her jewelry was for sale at Joyeria Carbajal inside Mercado Latino on Edison Highway.
“Deputies took her to the shop on Monday, and the victim was able to identify several pieces of her jewelry that were taken in a burglary,” says Ray Pruitt of the Kern County Sheriff's Department. “The business agreed to hold that property for her for a period of time so that she could try to get the money together to buy the jewelry back."
The store told Mahan it would cost her $655 to buy back her jewelry because that's what they paid for it. Mahan says she couldn't afford it because she’s on a fixed income.
“I said ‘this is mine,’ and they said ‘well, you have to buy it back from us because we purchased it from these people,’” Mahan says. “Well, isn’t that against the law for them to buy the jewelry? I thought it was. I feel violated.”
Mahan later received some good news. A man named Steve said he would pay for Mahan to get her jewelry back.
“I was so happy. Steve came by the jewelry store and bought it back for me and said whatever you want,” she says.
He paid $382 for what was left of her jewelry after other gold pieces were already melted down.
Pruitt says the California Business and Professions Code prevents officers from seizing stolen property after a sale.
“The business is actually a victim also because they have purchased property and they're out money that they paid for this property,” he says. “If it's later determined that this property is stolen and it has to be returned, then the business is a victim also and can be reimbursed."
Since the burglary, Mahan has new locks on her doors and windows and she installed two security lights.
"For other senior citizens, don't give up hope,” she says. “There's a lot of good people out there. Just make sure everything's under lock and key when you go away."
Mahan was served with a subpoena to appear in court September 25th to testify against Jesus Bustos, one of the three people arrested for breaking into her home.
The next day Mahan turns 83 years old. She says she happy her granddaughter can now wear her jewelry when she gets married next month.