Election fact check: Stolen gold and suspended license; we investigate Senate District 30 race

Danielle Ohl
Contact Reporterdohl@capgaznews.com

The general election is about a month away, so of course it’s time for campaign attack ads and fliers.

The latest are coming from the state senate race in District 30.

The Maryland Democratic Senate Caucus Committee sent out fliers condemning Republican candidate and former delegate Ron George for getting caught in an undercover sting investigating jewelers buying stolen jewelry. The Maryland Republican party responded with a digital campaign on its website chastising Democratic candidate Sarah Elfreth for a texting and driving citation that went unpaid.

The anti-George ad alleges the Main Street jeweler was caught in an undercover investigation into the sale of stolen jewelry and then tried to change the law to benefit his business. The flier features a Baltimore Sun clipping describing raids of 18 stores in violation of jewelry sale regulations, including George’s.

Police did raid Ron George Jewelers in December 2008. But what the flier lacks is context.

George said the undercover police officer who visited his store posed as a poor, embarrassed man looking for some money before the holiday season. He said the officer came in twice, looking to sell a small broken chain worth no more than $15.

Feeling badly for the man, George wrote him a check for $60 and told him to keep the chain. Hours later, one of the sales associates approached George and told him the man left the broken chain on the counter. George did not fill out the paperwork required for jewelry transactions.

Police raided the store on Dec. 23 and seized jewelry pieces from George’s workbench that he said were not stolen. Police eventually returned the jewelry to him and his customers, and he did not pay fines on the seized pieces, he said.

George did pay a fine for improper paperwork, he said, on the advice of his attorney. On the forms required by state law to accompany any jewelry sale, there is a comments section, which George said he filled out with additional information to help the police. In a few cases, this was considered “altering” the paperwork, he said.

The flier also calls out George for trying to change the law to benefit his business after the sting. George, during his time as a delegate, did submit an amendment to exempt jewelers from filing paperwork if the second-hand jewelry was acquired for custom work, repairs or remounting.

“You know your industry better than anyone,” George said in defense of his amendment, which ultimately failed.

Elfreth’s situation is a little less complicated.

The Maryland Republican ad chastises her for being “irresponsible” and “refusing” to pay her fine. It goes on to allege she drove for about a month with a suspended license.

Here’s what happened: Police in April pulled her over on West Street while she sent an email from her phone. She was given a ticket that she forgot to pay, she said.

Maryland Casesearch, an online database of criminal and civil infractions, lists that her license was suspended in May. But The Capital reviewed an Elfreth's driving record, which lists her license was suspended on July 11. She realized the lapse and paid the fine on July 23.

“This is one of those things where I was wrong,” she said. “It was wrong of me to have done it. I learned my lesson, I paid the fine, I went to the class. No one is perfect, and we’ve all done small things that are wrong.”

She said it’s the only negative thing she’s done, so that’s why the GOP seized on it.

Elfreth and George said they did not have prior knowledge of the ads run on their behalf. But they both had something to say about the other.

“I have never used a position of power to change the law to benefit myself,” Elfreth said of George’s amendment. “He got in trouble with the law and then when he was a delegate he tried to change the law to benefit his business. That’s the kind of thing people are tired of.”

“The thing is, that’s a two-way road right there so if you’re going 35, 45 mph, and there’s oncoming traffic, its still serious,” George said. “I’m uncomfortable with these kind of things. … But will say this, I would be livid if they were twisting facts like what this (the jewelry ad) did. I would be livid; that’s unfair to do to anybody. At least that (the Elfreth ad) is factual.”

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