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Knoxville's Black Market Causes Continued Rises in Retail Prices

By Jeaneane Payne


Retail prices will continue to increase as long as Knoxville's black market thrives. This vicious cycle of thievery has existed in Knoxville for many years.

Retail items ranging from clothing to major appliances and electronics are run through the black market, ending up in the homes of poor, middle class, and wealthy individuals alike. A large network of buyers has been developed over a number of years.

Headquarters for this market were, at one time, established in the Lonsdale Community with business being conducted out of a private home. The used items part of this business was known as the Lonsdale Thrift Shop. Items processed through the thrift shop were obtained through home burglaries.

For individuals who wanted to purchase new items, they simply called their order in to headquarters. For example, if they wanted clothing, they would visit a retail store and choose the items they wanted. They would write down a description of the items and the cost then call headquarters with the information. Headquarters would then call their contact person at the retail store and "place an order". The contact person might be a store manager, assistant manager, or other employee. That person would gather the items requested, place them in a box or trash bag, then carry them outside the store and place them beside the dumpster as if it were trash. They would inform the person calling in the order from headquarters what time the merchandise would be placed at the dumpster. At that time, another individual would arrive at the dumpster, pick up the merchandise, and go on to the next designated location to do the same thing.

Sources did not reveal how the merchandise was then distributed to individuals who had ordered it. Items were sold on the black market for one-half of the store's retail price. Store personnel and the runners received a percentage of the sale as did law enforcement officers much like the law enforcement officers who receive 10% for covering up Knoxville's private casino operations with their roulette wheels and high stake gaming tables.

Knoxville has a large ring of people involved in this black market, including department store employees, runners, order takers, buyers, and possibly law enforcement officers and security personnel. The people who run this ring are people who sing in our church choirs and quote scripture as if they wrote it themselves. Their family members work in reputable positions in our community. One even worked in our Public Defender's office knowing that their family members were involved in the black market.

Sources would not reveal whether the operation is still run from the Lonsdale Community following the death of one of its ringleaders, but if it isn't, it is most likely located nearby.

Another source has monitored activity in a large department store during recent months. They revealed that they have seen numerous women steal items from jewelry counters, shoe displays, and clothing racks by sliding them into shopping bags then continuing to walk throughout the store as if they were shopping before leaving the store a short time later. When our source reported the incidents to store clerks, the clerks were indifferent and stated, "We don't worry about it. It happens all the time." At no time were the incidents reported to store security or management, at least not in an adequate amount of time to make an attempt to investigate or while our source was still there to help identify the individuals.

For those of us who have to work hard for our money, this scenario is not only disconcerting, it is unfair to honest, hardworking people because retail prices rise as a result of this criminal activity.

My Great Grandfather was Sheriff of Cumberland County, Tennessee. He wasn't afraid of anyone and dealt with crime in his county justly. I'm not the Sheriff of Knox County, but I can certainly expose the crime. It took me a number of years to investigate this issue. While I cannot reveal the names of my sources because it would cost the lives of innocent people and that of my own, I can reveal that the crime exists.

If more of our politicians and community leaders would take a stand against crime in our city, we would see positive changes in our economy and Knoxville would become a better and safer place to live. We need leaders who will protect us and not the criminals. There is power in numbers, so if our politicians would stand together to fight crime in our city instead of fighting amongst themselves all the time, we could make a definitive effort in stopping crime in Knoxville. Put the criminals in jail or move them out of our city whether they're poor, middle class, or wealthy. Surely if our military can put forth the effort to try to protect our country, our elected politicians and community leaders can put forth the effort to protect our city. It's time to clean up our city and make it safe for our children and ourselves. How can we teach children how to protect themselves from bullying if we don't protect ourselves as adults?

Published January 3, 2011

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