Bill would tighten regulation of cash-for-gold businesses

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Gazette staff
Monday, December 16, 2013

MADISON—Sen. Tim Cullen and Rep. Debra Kolste began circulating legislation Monday that would create new consumer protections for victims of gold and jewelry theft.

The bill creates a reporting requirement and extends the holding period requirement for cash-for-gold businesses in Wisconsin.

The rising price of gold in the past few years, paired with a national economic downturn, has led to an explosion in gold sales.

Cullen, D-Janesville, and Kolste, D-Janesville, said it has also led to an increase in the sale of stolen gold jewelry to cash-for-gold stores. Cash-for-gold businesses can buy gold jewelry and quickly sell it to refineries, which then melt the jewelry down. The quick turnaround makes it almost impossible for victims of theft to recover their items before they are melted.

Current law requires cash-for-gold stores to hold purchased items for a short time. If stores agree to participate in a sales reporting system, they must hold purchased items for only seven days. If they refuse to report purchased items, they must hold the items for 21 days.

Cullen and Kolste determined new regulations were needed after meeting with Shaughn and Katherine Bolton of Janesville.

The Boltons had hired a woman to clean their house, and on three different occasions, the woman stole their jewelry and sold it to a local cash-for-gold dealer, as reported earlier by The Gazette.

By the time the Boltons noticed the jewelry was missing, the cash-for-gold store had sent the items to be melted down. The thief was charged, but the Boltons lost their jewelry. The items, worth nearly $17,000, were sold for less than $500. The seller's willingness to sell the gold so cheaply apparently raised no red flags with the cash-for-gold store.

Under the bill, secondhand gold dealers would be required to generate a report of each item purchased, which must include pictures of the items. Dealers would have to hold purchased items for 28 days following the generation of a report.

Cullen and Kolste said establishing a reporting requirement and creating a longer holding period would allow law enforcement officials a greater ability to discover stolen items. This will lead to more victims recovering their stolen items before it is too late.

The two legislators sought the advice of several law enforcement officials and retail jewelry dealers during the bill drafting process.

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