RAPAPORT... The state of New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs and its Office of Weights & Measures recorded 936 violations in “cash for gold” schemes, following a recent investigation of 21 jewelers across the state. Authorities vowed to continue their operation for another year, posing undercover as consumers who are interested in selling jewelry for cash as well as conducting unannounced official inspections of jewelry store operations. A similar investigation in August 2012 resulted in 12 jewelers facing citations for violating consumer protection laws in the cash for gold market.
“New Jersey’s cash-for-gold laws serve two important functions. On one hand, they require jewelers to be transparent about their pricing and the evaluation of precious metals when buying from consumers. On the other hand, they help fight the sale of stolen jewelry, by requiring the buyers to maintain a fully detailed record that can be provided to police,” said the state's acting attorney general, John J. Hoffman.
New Jersey law requires, among other things, that the buyer must weigh the precious metals and test its fineness within "clear sight of the seller." The buyer must use a scale that has been certified by the state's Office of Weights & Measures. The buyer also must post a sign that "clearly shows the prices on offer" based upon weight and fineness, for various precious metals. New Jersey also requires that buyers must "obtain proof of identification from the seller" to prevent trading stolen goods.
Jewelry buyers must create a serialized receipt that includes the date of the transaction, the name, address, and signature of the seller, the name and address of the buyer, and the types of precious metals purchased, along with weight and fineness and the prices paid. The buyer must give the seller a copy of the receipt and keep another copy for the buyer’s records for at least five years. In addition, the buyer must retain any precious metals in the form in which they were purchased, for no less than 10 business days following delivery of the sales record to local police.
According to the state's announcement, in early May, undercover officers posed as consumers who were trying to sell jewelry at International Gold Buyers in Edison. On May 9, after the undercover sales were concluded, Office of Weights & Measures officers entered the jewelry store and announced they were performing an inspection pursuant to New Jersey’s Weights and Measures Act and New Jersey criminal statutes. The officers and detectives observed the jewelry store’s scales and signage and obtained all receipts the store maintained on the premises. Authorities filed summonses in municipal court detailing 209 violations of New Jersey’s cash for gold laws, alleging that the store failed to keep its scale in plain view of the seller and failed to post the prices offered for precious metals. The store also allegedly failed to maintain receipts with required information; and, on at least two occasions, the seller’s name, address, and/or signature; the buyer’s name and/or address; and/or the date of the transaction.
The following week, an undercover operation at six jewelry stores at the Route 46 Diamond Exchange resulted in summonses detailing 241 violations, most of which were similar in nature. Six Star Jewelry allegedly failed to keep its scale in plain view, failed to post the prices offered, on one occasion failed to maintain a serialized receipt and, in all, was charged with 13 civil violations.
Haniken Jewelers was charged with 15 civil violations for the same reasons, in addition to allegedly failing to use a scale that had been secured with a lead and wire seal to prevent tampering. Weights & Measures officers confiscated this store’s scale because it was of a type not approved for the purchasing of jewelry. Sixteen civil violations were issued against Elizabeth Jewelry for the same reasons, with the additional alleged failure to retain jewelry in its original form for the required time. Jewelry by Marcus faced 96 civil violations, David’s Sons Jewelry was charged with 19 civil violations and John Anthony Jewelers was charged with 82 civil violations.
Officials later inspected 36 jewelry shops in northern New Jersey and announced their intent upon entering each establishment, finding the same issues persisted at 14 of the stores. Authorities found 486 violations, including 123 civil violations at Reliance Gold Buyers, in the Borough of Emerson and 38 civil violations at M & J Jewelers, in North Bergen. In Jersey City, two violations were cited at the Village Jewelry, 42 civil violations were alleged at Christina Jewelry and 34 violations were cited at Taj Diamond Inc. In Union, authorities cited 19 civil violations at Capital Diamond, eight violations at City Line Exchange and one violation for Gold Star Jewelers. In Plainfield, authorities filed 97 civil violations against Gold Star Jewelry; 26 violations at Dia Jewelers; 65 violations at Bong Jewelers; two violations at Electronic & Jewelry Spot and four violations at Gold Breeze Jewelry. The investigation resulted in 25 alleged violations at D&M Jewelry in Vauxhall.
The state also issued a special notice to consumers, calling upon them to "know with whom you are doing business" and they offered public brochures on "Selling Your Precious Metals and Jewelry," "Consumer Brief: Precious Metals and Jewelry" and "Precious Metals: A Guide for Law Enforcement."
Consumers were told to watch the jeweler perform tests and measurements on the items they bring to sell and ensure that the scale being used bears a blue New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures sticker that is not broken and is dated to show the scale has been tested within the past 12 months. Completed receipts must include the buyer's name and address; the date of the transaction; the names of the precious metals purchased; the fineness and weights of the precious metals purchased; the prices paid for the precious metals at the standard measures of weight; and the name, address, and signature of the seller.