Gold buyers told to close or comply with new state law
In the past week, two transient gold buying operations have been found in violation of a new Texas law requiring businesses and individuals to register and obtain proper licenses before they purchase gold and other precious metals.
Both THR & Associates, operating under one of its aliases Mississippi Valley Gold & Silver Refinery from Springfield, Ill.; and Mason and Davis Metals of Percy, Ark. were found by The Examiner to be operating in violation of the new law – a Class B misdemeanor.
Police closed down the THR & Associates show, telling the manager of the event that he could reopen after meeting all of the local and state guidelines.
The interaction between the police and THR representatives was captured on video by a source selling gold to THR as part of an ongoing investigation into the company’s business practices. The company has a history of offering pennies on the dollar for items brought into its events despite promising to pay “Top Dollar.” The 10kt gold necklace sold as officers were closing down the operation had a melt value of about $520 based on the gold price for that day. Additionally, a sterling silver chain and pendant with a melt value of about $20 was also sold. The total amount paid by THR for the the gold and silver pieces was $88.
The Examiner has investigated THR and its affiliated companies for more than two years and highlighted how the company operates by conducting undercover investigations in nine states.
Primarily, the company was in violation of a new law that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, requiring all buyers of precious metals to register with the state and obtain a license. Additionally, the companies must provide detailed receipts to the individuals from which they are buying, according to the law. The new law was originally pushed by the Pawn Dealers Association, but lawmakers also received input from several numismatic associations.
THR was also in violation of a city ordinance because none of the people buying precious metals at the Courtyard by Marriott were listed on a license application with the city of Beaumont. Both the state law and the city ordinance have criminal penalties for a Class B misdemeanor that include jail time and civil or administrative penalties or fines.THR & Associates opened its most recent gold buying operation in Beaumont on Tuesday, Jan. 4, using the alias Mississippi Gold and Silver Refinery. The name is similar to another alias – Ohio Valley Gold & Silver Refinery – and the two companies are part of a network of gold buying operations using nearly a dozen assumed names belonging to THR. The embattled company is also known as the Treasure Hunters Roadshow.
Beaumont Police Sgt. Mike Mills said companies cannot operate in Beaumont without having the proper licenses.
“They don’t have any records,” Mills said. “I did some research to see what the ordinance said regarding the city ordinance. I went in and identified myself and explained they had a city permit but the two people inside were not on that permit. I also explained to them that they were in violation of state law and they had to be in compliance with that law, as well.
“I explained to them that they could not buy jewelry or precious metals until they were in compliance. So there is a state violation, as well.”
Mills said that because they claimed to have been given bad information by the police department regarding licensing procedures, he decided not to charge the two THR employees with a crime. However, he said, if they continued operating in violation of the law, he would arrest them.”
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, Mason and Davis Metals was holding two gold buying events – one in Port Arthur at the Hampton Inn and another at the MCM Eleganté Hotel in Beaumont. The company’s representative offered $200 for a similar gold chain that had a melt value of about $554. It was also discovered that the scale being used at the Beaumont location was not certified by the state, which is a separate violation. However, Mason and Davis did attempt to correct the problem.
When Mason and Davis Metals was told it was violating the law, Paul Mason, the co-owner of the company immediately applied for a license from the Texas Department of Public Safety. The company is now listed as being in compliance, according to the state’s public database of precious metals buyers. He is also contacting the Texas Department of Agriculture to have all of his scales certified.
“You have just educated us,” Mason said when asked about why his company wasn’t in compliance. “We tried to check and make sure that we were doing everything right. You can only go on what information you have. What we are going to try to not do is shut down. We just found out about this new law, and we want to be in compliance.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Examiner will publish an in-depth article on the new law and how it affects not only transient buyers but local jewelry stores and pawn shops in an upcoming edition.