By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
Michael Allen VanAusdle, owner of the Port Angeles Antique Mall at 109 W. First St., was charged with three counts of first-degree trafficking in stolen property in Clallam County Superior Court on Thursday.
He is accused of buying stolen property during a sting operation organized by a burglary task force of Clallam County sheriff's deputies and Port Angeles and Sequim police officers.
“I do not deal in stolen merchandise. I never wanted to deal in stolen merchandise,” VanAusdle told the Peninsula Daily News after his arraignment Thursday.
VanAusdle, who was arrested by sheriff's deputies at the antique mall Feb. 15, said the charges against him were overblown and that the court documents describing what he is accused of doing are inaccurate.
“When I was set up for the sting, I misunderstood what was being said to me,” VanAusdle said.
“I did not know that I was going to be involved in any stolen property,” he continued.
A jury trial date for VanAusdle, 51, has been set for May 6, with a status hearing set for March 28 at 1 p.m. in Clallam County Superior Court.
He was released from the Clallam County jail on his own recognizance Tuesday.
“It's this little thing that got blown into a great big volcano,” VanAusdle said Thursday.
“I'm not saying anybody lied,” he added. “I'm just saying there are a lot of errors.”
The police report filed in the case gives this account:
Confidential informants working with the Clallam County Sheriff's Office approached VanAusdle three times at the Port Angeles Antique Mall between Dec. 16 and Jan. 17 and asked to sell him gold and silver jewelry they described as stolen.
During a Dec. 26 visit, the informants told investigators that VanAusdle said, “You shouldn't have told me that,” when VanAusdle was told four pieces of 14-karat-gold jewelry they were trying to sell were stolen.
VanAusdle reportedly paid $250 cash for those four pieces.
In two later visits in January, VanAusdle reportedly told the informants they should say they had “inherited” multiple pieces of gold and silver jewelry rather than say they were stolen.
VanAusdle reportedly paid $640 cash for 16 pieces of gold and silver jewelry over the course of the sting operation, according to the police report.
The informants also told investigators VanAusdle asked to see identification and wrote something down on paper only during the Dec. 26 visit.
“At no other time in any of the [three] transactions did the [informants] see any paperwork such as invoices, receipts or statements documenting the transactions,” Clallam County Sheriff's Deputy James McLaughlin wrote in the police report.
Sheriff's deputies arrested VanAusdle at the antique mall Feb. 15.
The sting was part of an operation during which an undisclosed number of Port Angeles gold and silver buyers were approached about buying jewelry described as stolen.
The jewelry used in the sting was not actually stolen but paid for by the county, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The Port Angeles Antique Mall houses roughly 60 independently operating vendors, VanAusdle said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.