Former Concord jeweler sentenced to year in jail for buying stolen goods
For more than four decades, Hung Hoang’s story was one of resilience.
Born in Vietnam at the height of a bloody civil war and forced to flee to the countryside at an early age, he took refuge with an uncle who taught him to repair watches and hawk them from a roadside cart. In 1991, at age 22, he immigrated to the United States and began working – often two jobs at once – to support his eight siblings. In 2006, he earned his citizenship and launched a modest watch-repair venture. Three years on, he opened a secondhand jewelry shop in the Steeplegate Mall in Concord.
But yesterday, as the 44-year-old was sentenced to a year in the Merrimack County jail for having purchased nearly two dozen stolen items in 2011, it became evident just how much his tale had recently turned.
“It’s a sad day,” said Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler as he handed down the sentence. Smukler acknowledged that Hoang had overcome many hurdles in his life and was well-regarded by his family and friends, but he said the crime for which he was convicted in October was simply too great to overlook.
By purchasing the goods, Smukler said, Hoang had effectively “enabled” the series of home invasions that brought them to him. He said the sentence was meant to both punish Hoang and send a message to local pawnbrokers, that knowingly dealing in stolen goods can and will bring a stiff penalty.
Hoang’s activity surfaced in 2011 after a victim of one of the home invasions saw her initials on a class ring displayed in his store. She contacted the Concord police, but when they arrived, the engraving was gone.
Detectives said at the time they had been eyeing Hoang’s operation because of similar concerns, and a week later they executed a search warrant of his shop, collecting nearly 200 items, including jewelry and high-valued coins. Hoang, then a resident of Manchester, was evicted from the space shortly thereafter.
In a statement yesterday in court, the owner of the class ring – who said she had a total of $14,000 worth of valuables stolen from her home – told Hoang he had destroyed more than material goods.
“You took almost 100 years of memories, keepsakes, expressions of love and trust,” the woman said.
“I hope you spend a long time thinking about what you could and should have done differently,” she added. “I hope you do this thinking behind bars. I hope you learn to be honest. And I hope you are never in a position to make choices like this again.”
Under his conviction, Hoang had been eligible for up to 15 years in state prison. But county prosecutor George Waldron asked yesterday for a lesser 1.5- to 5-year sentence. Like Smukler, he said the punishment would serve as an indicator to pawnbrokers about their duty to report stolen merchandise.
But Hoang’s attorney, Douglas Miller, said that message had already been sent. His client lost his business, saw his professional reputation smeared and suffered two years of emotional and financial hardship as his case lumbered toward yesterday’s conclusion. He asked that Hoang be confined to house arrest, and that he be allowed to continue working – in a field outside the jewelry industry.
Miller described Hoang’s conduct in 2011 as an “aberration” from that which his family and friends had come to know. He said Hoang had no previous criminal record and strived often to be a good citizen, giving rides to strangers, supporting charities and contributing financially to a Buddhist temple in Manchester. Before the investigation, Miller said, customers regarded Hoang as a judicious businessman, someone who always offered a fair price.
Dressed in a trim black suit, Hoang appeared apologetic, saying that he was “deeply sorry for what happened.”
“I have been in jail mentally and emotionally for over the last two years,” he said, refusing the help of a translator. “My life will never be the same.”
Still, Hoang – or at least his attorney – has yet to fully accept the punishment at hand. After the sentence was read, Miller asked that the incarceration be postponed until he has a chance to file an appeal. Smukler granted the request, but said he would do so for only 30 days.
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)