Three gold dealers provided an "essential service" for Melbourne's crooks from a nondescript CBD high-rise until cops posing as criminals brought them down.
Brothers Alejandro and Julio Mendieta Blanco, alongside Chey Tenenboim, bought a combined $218,848 in stolen gold jewellery and other precious gems until police raided the Gold Buyers Melbourne business in October 2017.
The trio initially faced 453 charges but a plea deal with prosecutors meant they each admitted to one offence of receiving stolen goods over three months that year.
They bought gold rings, watches and other jewellery off the books from a host of shady characters, who were instructed to speak in code when they called.
They received a lower rate for the goods in exchange for not having to provide ID usually required.
The gold was then melted down. Some of those crooks who came knocking were actually undercover police officers.
Prosecutor David Glynn told Victoria's County Court on Friday the Mendieta Blanco brothers and Tenenboim had used a legitimate business to offer "an essential service to the thieves of Melbourne".
Alejandro Mendieta Blanco's lawyer disputed that picture. He downplayed the 34-year-old's role and said the resulting rolled-up charge against him was not an especially serious example of the offence.
Judge Scott Johns labelled the conduct audacious, brazen and a breach of trust. He indicated some jail time was likely.
Court documents describe how Tenenboim told one customer who came in with a lot of gold in a sock: "When you give it to me I'm melting it on the same day."
"You were never here," the gold dealer added.
He also gave out addresses of loan customers so crooks could burgle them and sell the jewellery back to Gold Buyers.
The three dealers' lawyers complained about the "extreme" media coverage of the case.
Julio Mendieta Blanco could not find a job in his chosen field of medicine and had even given up dating because coverage was that bad, barrister Paul Holdenson QC said.
"If they Google we look what comes up," the 37-year-old said, according to Mr Holdenson.
The older Mendieta Blanco brother had been a doctor in his home country of Colombia.
He was working towards the same career in Australia when he agreed to go into the gold business with his sibling because waiting tables didn't pay the bills.
The 37-year-old apologised in court to victims who lost precious and sentimental jewellery.
"I understand now I contributed to the suffering of others. I didn't think about that at the time," he said.
"I studied medicine to become a doctor. I wanted to help people," he said, acknowledging he had "violated my principles".
Tenenboim is due to be sentenced on August 19, and the Mendieta Blanco brothers on August 25.