MODESTO — Prosecutors will not file charges against three Modesto public works employees who sold about $2,500 worth of jewelry they found while cleaning sewer lines.
"As there is no evidence that the property was stolen, and that there was no actual knowledge of who the owners are, or any reason why the city workers would have known who the property belonged to, there was no criminal liability," Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said in an email Tuesday.
Police recently investigated the three workers after their names showed up during a routine audit at Modesto Gold, Jewelry and Coins, a second-hand dealer that buys gold jewelry and sells it to refineries that melt it for reuse.
Police frequently check the records of pawn shops and secondhand dealers for anything unusual that may indicate someone has sold stolen property. Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll has said it was not clear the workers had committed a crime and that police initially did not know the three worked for the city.
Carroll has said the employees sold the jewelry over two months.
The jewelry was not the kind of stuff you'd want to give your sweetheart. It was stained, discolored and pitted from being in the sewer. Raw sewage produces sulfuric acid, which eats metal.
"They steam-cleaned it, but it still was pretty gross," Modesto Gold, Jewelry and Coins employee Yvonne Brawley said last month. "It can't be resold. No one is going to want to wear it. I can promise you that."
Brawley said one of the three city workers had been in the store a few times over a couple of years, selling jewelry found in the sewer.
About 25 million gallons of sewage flows through Modesto's roughly 670 miles of sewers each day. Workers use high-pressure hoses to flush out the lines.
City spokesman Jim Arnold said Tuesday in an email that Modesto is developing a policy on what employees should do when they find items on the job. He added that the policy will apply to all city employees.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.