Fence (criminal)

In law enforcement, a fence is an individual who knowingly buys stolen property for later resale in a (usually) legitimate market. As a verb, the word describes the behavior of the thief in the transaction: "The burglar fenced the radio". This sense of the term came from thieves' slang, first attested c. 1700, from notion of such transactions taking place under defense of secrecy [ [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fence "Online Etymology Dictionary"] ] .

The fence is able to make a significant profit because he is able to pay thieves a very low price for stolen goods; thieves agree to this because their alternatives (such as directly soliciting passersby on a crowded street, or selling the goods on eBay or at a flea market) may present a greater risk of the thief being caught, and will take more time. The fence then disguises the stolen nature of the goods, if possible, and is then able to sell them at or near the usual wholesale price.

Depending on the stolen item, the fence may attempt to remove, deface, or replace serial numbers on the stolen item before reselling it.

Fencing is illegal almost everywhere, usually under a similar rationale as in the United States, where receipt of stolen property is a federal crime. Occasionally police will temporarily set up a fencing operation in order to let the word spread that a good fence is available in the area, and then trap a number of thieves.

Pawnbrokers have often been associated with fencing, though in many jurisdictions, government ID must be shown in order to pawn an item. In any event, pawnbrokers vigorously resist this characterization.

Money laundering could be described as the fencing of currency.


E-fencing is the sale of stolen or shoplifted items on the internet.

An eBay spokesman has claimed, "Perhaps the dumbest place to try to fence stolen materials is on eBay," and news agencies have reported incidents of the police purchasing stolen property directly from thieves, leading to their capture. However, one California prosecutor differs with this, saying, "There's no need for the pawnbroker. Internet auctions have suddenly become a really easy way to fence stuff". [http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/3443962.htm]

According to CNBC in January 2007 [ [http://www.investortrip.com/how-to-solve-ebays-efencing-problem/ Efencing Theft Problems on eBay ] ] , e-fencing is a $37 billion business. Retailers have been complaining about the online sale of their stolen goods but the online auction industry has taken the stance that retailers need to do more policing instead. eBay's Vice President of Trust & Safety Rob Chesnut stated '..It's the job of these major retailers to prevent criminals from lifting their products.'


ee also

* Handling

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