San Luis Obispo jeweler’s case is in jury’s hands

William McBurney
William McBurney

The question of whether a San Luis Obispo salesman knew he was buying stolen jewelry when he purchased diamond and sapphire rings in 2010 was at the heart of closings arguments Wednesday in his stolen-property trial.

The case against William Roger McBurney, a sales associate at All That Glitters in San Luis Obispo, is now in the jury’s hands.

McBurney, 57, has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of receiving stolen property and a misdemeanor offense of delaying an officer in the course of his duties.

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy dropped two misdemeanor charges against McBurney earlier this week alleging that he operated without a second-hand dealer’s business license.

Because McBurney’s son, Travis McBurney, is the president of All That Glitters, and William McBurney was an employee, the second-hand licensing wasn’t McBurney’s responsibility.

The store now has a second-hand dealer’s license, Travis McBurney testified during the two-week trial.

San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Karen Gray argued that William McBurney knew he was buying stolen jewelry because of the low amounts he paid: $204 for a diamond ring worth more than $20,000, and $132 for the sapphire ring worth $3,500.

Gray said Eugene Kriewitz, the thief of the diamond ring, looked “scruffy” and admitted to being high on drugs when he sold the ring to McBurney, whom he identified in a photo lineup. William McBurney wrote out a check to Kriewitz that was presented as evidence.

Gray said McBurney, an experienced jeweler of 30 years, paid “a grossly inadequate price” because he knew the jewelry was obtained illegally.

Gray said he wanted to make easy money and Kriewitz’s willingness to accept a low amount showed he just wanted cash in hand. That was also the case for Jesse Cornelison, who accepted the $132 payment for the sapphire.

But Ilan Funke-Bilu, McBurney’s lawyer, argued that McBurney committed no crime by “trying to make a living” and emphasized that his client was falsely identified in an Atascadero Police Department report as the owner of the store.

Funke-Bilu said Kriewitz took the same 2.4-carat diamond ring to KJon’s jewelry shop in Atascadero, and the saleswoman there was suspicious of how Kriewitz got it.

But she didn’t report her suspicions to police after Kriewitz left, which Funke-Bilu said meant his client also couldn’t have known they were stolen.

Funke-Bilu said that when police called McBurney about the alleged stolen ring, McBurney told them he didn’t recall anyone selling it to him.

It was an honest mistake to forget the transaction because he made other deals and the police officer didn’t describe the item in specific detail, Funke-Bilu said.

And McBurney tried to set up a meeting with police before police served the warrant, Funke-Bilu said.

While Funke-Bilu argued that it’s common for a jeweler to melt down a ring and sell the metal, Gray said that melting would make a stolen item easy to conceal.