RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - The NBC TV affiliate in Richmond "exposed" the wrong pawn shop in a so-called undercover exposé about melting down gold jewelry, a long-established pawn shop says in a defamation complaint in City Court. Jefferson Loan Office claims WWBT reporters went "undercover" at a store down the street, then blamed Jefferson for what happened there. It wants $1 million for the mistake.
Jefferson claims that WWBT Channel 12 accused it of underpaying customers for their gold after the station's reporters visited a different pawn shop - Friedman's Loan. Jefferson, which says it has offered fair prices for more than 20 years, says WWBT, its news anchor Sabrina Squire and "undercover reporter" Curt Autry defamed it in their botched report.
Jefferson claims that WWBT reporters entered Friedman's Loan with hidden cameras, and caught footage of a store that appeared "cluttered and hectic." Jefferson says that, on film, the pawn shop offered the producers $75 for jewelry worth more than $200.
Autry repeatedly referred to the store as Jefferson's Loan, and concluded that "customers of Jefferson Loan are getting ripped off" - but he was in the wrong shop, according to the complaint.
The two stores "are different and are unaffiliated with each others," the complaint states. They're both on Broad Street, though.
"Unlike the store falsely depicted as Jefferson Loan in the 11 p.m. broadcast as Jefferson Loan, Jefferson Loan's actual store is clean, orderly, and its employees and agents are careful to great [sic] customers politely and respectfully at the stores' counters and not from behind an intimidating looking cage," Jefferson says in its complaint.
It claims WWBT never obtained an appraisal for jewelry at its store.
Jefferson says WWBT ran a clarification the next day on its 5 p.m. broadcast, but never apologized for its error.
Jefferson Loan says the botched story harmed its business and its reputation. It seeks $500,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.
It is represented by Cullen Seltzer with Seltzer Green.
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