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Ipswich tightens rules for buying and selling of used goods in town

Pawn shops, dealers get new regulations

Antiques stores and other secondhand dealers such as pawn shops will face more scrutiny buying and selling gold jewelry and other merchandise in Ipswich under strict new rules that police say will help track down and recover stolen items.

New regulations, approved by town voters on Oct. 15, will require secondhand dealers to keep a list of sellers and transactions; photocopy their ID; take photographs of what they buy and sell; and report weekly to police officials.

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If the new rules are approved by the state attorney general’s office, Ipswich will join more than a dozen communities north of Boston — including Marblehead, Essex, Danvers, and Rowley — in adopting tougher regulations for pawn shop owners.

Ipswich Town Manager Robin Crosbie said police have noticed jewelry and stolen items from surrounding communities showing up in the dozen or so shops across town.

“We didn’t want the town to become a magnet for people who are looking to get rid of items that have been stolen,” she said. “That was our primary concern.”

State law already requires pawnbrokers to keep records of what they take in and who they get it from, and to provide those records to police upon request. But antiques shops and cash-for-gold dealers have operated under the radar of state law, and towns like Ipswich are trying to close the regulatory loophole.

Under Ipswich’s new rules, dealers will be required to keep gold, silver, sports memorabilia, electronics, musical instruments, and other items for 30 days before reselling them or melting them down.

‘We didn’t want the town to become a magnet for people who are looking to get rid of items that have been stolen.’

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They face fines of up to $1,000 for repeat violations and/or could have their town-issued business licenses revoked.

The new regulations, which also include antiques, art, watches, furs, and coins, don’t apply to flea markets and consignment shops that also sell secondhand goods.

John Fiske, who owns Fiske & Freeman Fine and Early Antiques with his wife, Lisa Freeman, said antiques dealers in town were initially concerned about the burden of complying with the new law.

But he said those concerns were alleviated after town officials met with shopkeepers and agreed to amend the law to exempt items purchased at antiques shows and estate sales outside their shops.

“I think the outcome was fair to everybody and not burdensome on antiques dealers in the town,” Fiske said. “We’re as concerned as anyone about keeping stolen goods out of our shops.”

Beverly has had similar rules for several years and has used them to shut down at least one pawn shop.

Last year, the City Council voted to close JGM Numismatics on Cabot Street after the shop’s owner, George Maroskos, was charged with hindering police detectives who were trying to solve the theft of $50,000 worth of jewelry and coins from a Hamilton home.

Maroskos was found guilty in March and sentenced to one year of probation. He was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to one of the victims, a 77-year-old Hamilton woman who lost wedding silver and heirlooms that have been in her family since the 1700s.

Authorities said Maroskos had a history of shady dealings, including failing to report buying 45 silver bars that had been stolen in Salem in 2011 and 14 gold Krugerrand coins stolen from a Danvers home about two years earlier.

“We think it’s been a very effective tool to help us eliminate the means to get rid of stolen property,” acting Beverly Police Chief Christopher Negrotti said.

Critics say the regulations are cumbersome and anti-business, and some have raised privacy issues about being required to make shop inventory records available to police departments throughout New England.

Others complain that high-end jewelers that sell millions in gold are exempt from the regulations.

Ed Bean, president of the Massachusetts Pawnbrokers Association and owner of Suffolk Jewelers & Pawnbrokers in Boston’s South End, said it’s only fair that secondhand shops face the same scrutiny that pawn shops have for decades.

“We’ve been doing that for more than 100 years,” Bean said. “It’s nothing new. This is how we do business. We take a picture of the person, their ID, and what they’re selling, and send it electronically to the police department, every day.”

Bean said the amount of stolen property being pawned is small and said most of the people selling valuables at pawn shops eventually reclaim the items.

Many of the fly-by-night gold buyers who proliferated during the height of the recession, when the price of gold reached historic highs, have disappeared, Bean said, and towns that are passing regulations targeting them are “basically closing the barn door after the horse has left. It’s not happening anymore,” he said.

Overall, he said, the industry welcomes the added layers of scrutiny.

“It keeps the bad guys out and gives us more credibility,” Bean said. “We don’t want stolen stuff coming in here, period. That’s our reputation on the line.”

Christian M. Wade can be reached at cmwade1969@
gmail.com
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