Florence Denies Business License to Man Previously Convicted in Pawn Shop Scheme
Florence city council on Tuesday night upheld a denial of an occupational license to a man who hoped to operate a mattress outlet in the city but whose previous felony convictions came back to haunt him.
In January, Charles Wilson purchased the Mattress Overstock Liquidation Outlet at 8470 U.S. 42 in Florence but was turned down for a business license. He wanted to appeal the decision and appeared before city council.
He stated that he filled out such an application but in August was denied.
City Attorney Thomas Nienaber said that Wilson failed to disclose his criminal past fully and said that he had never had a business license revoked. Nienaber said that wasn't true.
Wilson explained that he was told he needed an occupational license after he had already opened and had been operating since early this year. He expressed that he was confused about a previous business license because he was not sure if the business he operated a decade ago in Covington ever had one.
According to a 2011 report by WXIX and a 2012 report by the Cincinnati Enquirer, Wilson pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property and was sentenced to ten years in prison. He served two.
According to those reports, Wilson operated two pawn shops called Cash-In, one in Covington and one in Erlanger.
Police originally investigated the Covington location for operating without a business license but during that discovered what was ultimately $750,000 in stolen merchandise such as teeth whitening strips, male enhancement products, and sporting goods from big box stores like Dick's and Walmart. "After finding boxes and bags filled with brand new items, many with the price tags still attached, stacks of cash, and numerous firearms, the detectives got a search warrant. Over three days, detectives hauled away so much evidence that the police had to rent two portable storage units to store the evidence," the Enquirer reported.
Ultimately, an eighteen-month prosecution of twenty-one people involved in operating a theft ring out of the two shops resulted in guilty verdicts against five.
Wilson said that he only listed one felony on his business application in Florence because two others were related to that one, and he said there was not enough room on the line of the application.
The application, however, states that another piece of paper should be attached to list each felony, if necessary.
Since being released from prison, Wilson said that he has worked as a pizza delivery driver, worked in a warehouse, and then ended up in mattress liquidation. He said that he worked hard, saved his money, and bought the store.
Wilson claimed that he no longer the same person he was nine years ago, acknowledging that he made a bad decision, but suggested that he should not have to pay for it the rest of his life.
"You hold my future," he told council.
But Mayor Diane Whalen told Wilson that the city must protect its citizens from predatory businesses, and City Coordinator Josh Wice said that if Wilson had opened up something like a bakery instead, where there would be less of a chance to rip off customers, Wilson's application would have had a better shot.
Councilwoman Julie Metzger-Aubuchon explained that the city wants businesses that can be trusted.
Councilman Mel Carroll, though, said that no one is perfect, and that Wilson's offenses happened almost a decade ago. He suggested that Wilson needed a second chance and would support that.
But the rules for the application were already in place, and Wice stated to council that even if Wilson had filled out the application correctly, he would have been denied.
Carroll was the lone vote against upholding the denial, with five other council members voting in favor.
Council welcomed retired firefighter/EMT Captain Marty Thomas as he was made a Kentucky Colonel, an honorary title in the Commonwealth.
Fellow firefighter Tom Spille explained that Thomas started with the Florence Fire Department in November 1973, experiencing the transition from a volunteer department to a fully-paid one.
"There is a saying, that an old firefighter's job is to make the young firefighters old firefighters," Spille said.
"I just want to thank you," said Councilman Osborne. "You were one of the pioneers. You can see the result of what you've done."
Mel Carroll echoed Osborne's sentiments.
"Things just don't happen," he said. "Someone has to have vision, someone has to have the get up and go do something. As a result we have a fire department we can be proud of, and is the envy of many places."
Mayor Whalen said that there was a lot of history and a lot of vision in the room, and she appreciated the contributions that were made.
Council also listened to the first reading of the tax rates for the city: the rate for real property is .182 cents per $100 or assessed value, and the rate for personal property, but not automobiles, is .298 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Councilman Carroll said he thought that tax rates were one of the biggest decisions they make, and he was proud that council has been able to keep the rates the same for the last 12 years.
"I am happy to vote for this tax rate," he said.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer and Michael Monks
Top photo: Charles Wilson talks to Florence city council (RCN)