National News

No jail for Vic jewellers who pawned items

Roger and Georgette Aznavorian were well-respected in the community so for a while, they got away with pawning more than $30,000 of their customers' jewellery.

Many of their nine victims, who had taken their jewels and watches in for cleaning and repairs, had known them for years and the couple was held in high regard locally.

"Each offence involved a gross breach of trust," Victorian County Court Judge Carolyn Douglas said on Tuesday, as she sentenced each of them to a 28-month, wholly-suspended jail term for theft.

The couple pawned the watches and jewellery to keep their struggling Caulfield business afloat and had never planned to steal from their customers, the court heard.

They were making payments on the items right up until their shop went into liquidation in December 2010 and had redeemed some items before they shut down.

Customers were given a variety of excuses when they tried to pick up the items, including that the watches had been sent to Switzerland or America.

One woman was told Mr Aznavorian had lost the 18-carat gold necklace and pendant she had asked him to connect, the court previously heard.

On another occasion, the same woman was also told she had already picked the item up.

Some of the items were of "enormous emotional value", Judge Douglas said.

A number of customers didn't go to police about their property until the business went into liquidation, which showed how well-respected the couple were, she said.

"Many have felt an enormous sense of betrayal," Judge Douglas said.

The judge also slammed police handling of the case, saying it was considered a "PR exercise" instead of a criminal investigation.

The couple weren't charged until 2013, so they had the matter "hanging over their head" for a very long time.

There was a "lax" system of identifying property in the store, including blurry photos, the judge said.

"It should have been taken seriously from the beginning," Judge Douglas said.

Neither of the Aznavorians had a prior criminal history and were unlikely to offend again, the court heard.

Each had pleaded guilty to nine counts of theft committed between 2008 and 2010.

© AAP 2016

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