Lake Wylie jeweler’s tip leads to arrest

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comApril 27, 2014 

— Jody Chandler makes a living repairing valuable assets. His latest repair job is his image.

Chandler, owner of Precious Metals of Lake Wylie, recently found himself involved in a case where items were stolen from local homes. He’s afraid some people have his role confused. Chandler, authorities say, wasn’t behind the crime.

“I definitely want to get that cleared up,” said Chandler, a certified gemologist, jewelry appraiser and designer.

York County Sheriff’s Office late last month charged Thomas Grant Bridges, 20, of Clover with 11 counts including grand larceny, second-degree burglary and petit in connection with a series of Lake Wylie home break-ins. Bridges faces 15 counts, four grand larceny charges and seven burglaries to go with criminal conspiracy, safecracking and others.

Det. Tracy Strickland with the Sheriff’s Office said Chandler unknowingly purchased stolen jewelry from Bridges and a co-defendant.

“He is not involved with the theft,” Strickland said.

Instead, Chandler is a contact for Strickland on possible theft cases. A valuable coin prompted Chandler to contact police.

“Chandler has helped me out on several cases in the past and did not know these items were stolen,” Strickland said. “Chandler was one of the persons who gave information leading to Bridges’ arrest.”

Chandler’s business includes jewelry design, and jewelry and watch repair, with gold purchase making up a small percentage of what he does. But the climate, he said, is right for it.

“With the price of gold so high it’s lucrative to buy and people are willing to sell,” Chandler said.

He estimates in almost four years, he’s had more than 600 clients, and only four occasions involving stolen property. Chandler documents gold that comes in, gets a driver’s license and photo, then runs checks on items per state law. The recent instance of purchasing a stolen item was his first, because it wasn’t registered as stolen to raise a red flag.

In the coin case, the suspect left the store with items in-hand after learning it would take a week or more and personal information to get paid. That’s when Chandler called the Sheriff’s Office, which led to the arrest.

“He didn’t want to do that,” Chandler said.

Customer Lee Kehler, who has gone to Precious Metals during the past three years including gold sales, is happy to do business with Chandler and for his work leading to the arrest.

“I have had two occasions in River Hills where people suggested Jody was the jeweler that would ‘fence’ the jewelry,” Kehler said via email. “The real story is Jody called the police and that led to his arrest.”

Kehler says Chandler goes above and beyond to follow state laws verifying items before sending them to a smelter.

“Jody would go beyond the actual requirements to ensure everything was legal,” Kehler wrote.

John Marks •  803-831-8166

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