SOMERVILLE – New Jersey Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman, Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey D. Soriano, and State Division of Consumer Affairs Director Eric T. Kanefsky today announced criminal and civil charges against the operators of Somerset County jewelry shops, resulting from a joint “cash-for-gold” undercover sting called “Operation Somer Gold.”
Undercover investigators from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures, and Somerset County Weights and Measures visited a total of eight cash-for-gold shops in Bound Brook, Franklin Park, Franklin Township, and Green Brook. The investigators brought items of jewelry and offered to sell them at the stores, while observing whether the jewelers followed state laws intended to protect consumers who seek to sell their precious metals – as well as laws intended to protect against the sale of stolen goods.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman said, “New Jersey’s cash-for-gold laws remove an avenue for burglars who profit by stealing precious items from law-abiding citizens. They also protect consumers who make the difficult decision, often during hard economic times, to part with their jewelry in exchange for cash.”
As a result of the investigation, the owners of two shops now face criminal charges filed by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. Highland Park resident David Rubin, 55, the owner of Cash4Gold/Wireless Source in Franklin Township, is charged with third-degree receiving stolen property, and with third- and fourth-degree attempted receipt of stolen property. He allegedly was found to be knowingly in possession of jewelry and other items that had been stolen during residential and commercial burglaries.
South Plainfield resident Michal Khalaf, 51, owner of Khalaf Jewelry in Bound Brook, is accused of second-degree conducting unlawful credit practice. After receiving a gold item from an undercover investigator, he allegedly attempted to pawn it at an annual interest rate exceeding 300 percent. Prosecutor Soriano said Khalaf was not licensed by the State to operate as a pawn broker.
Prosecutor Soriano said, “Joint operations such as this bring together the State and County Offices of Weights and Measures, which focus on protecting consumers who sell their jewelry, with criminal law enforcement, enabling us to identify and stop businesses that knowingly buy stolen property – especially items that are stolen during residential burglaries.”
In addition to the criminal charges, a total of four shops – including Cash4Gold/Wireless Source – are charged with civil violations, for allegedly failing to abide by New Jersey’s cash-for-gold consumer protection laws. Cash4Gold/Wireless Source was charged in the Franklin Township Municipal Court with 30 civil violations; Venus Jewelers was charged in Franklin Township Municipal Court with 439 civil violations; Las Americas was charged in the Bound Brook Municipal Court with 87 civil violations; and Hillsborough Rare Coins was charged in the Green Brook Municipal Court with 27 civil violations.
Each civil violation carries a maximum penalty of $500.
“Consumers deserve clear and accurate information when they shop around for the best value for their family’s jewelry. That’s why the Office of Weights and Measures certifies the scales, ensures jewelers test and weigh precious metals right in front of the consumer, and that they provide a detailed receipt about the items purchased,” Eric T. Kanefsky, Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “I commend the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office and the Somerset County Office of Weights and Measures for their proactive participation in this investigation.”
To help ensure consumers are not cheated when they sell precious metals, New Jersey law requires, among other things, that the buyer must weigh the precious metals, and test their fineness, within clear sight of the seller. The buyer must use a scale that has been certified by the Office of Weights and Measures. The buyer also must post a sign clearly showing the prices he or she offers, by weight and fineness, for various precious metals.
To help prevent the sale of stolen jewelry, and help return stolen jewelry to its rightful owner, State law requires that the seller must obtain proof of identification from the seller; and 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, their weight and fineness, and the prices paid. The buyer must give the seller a copy of the receipt, and must keep another copy for the buyer’s own records for at least one year. The buyer also must retain any precious metals in the form in which they were purchased, for no less than two business days.
Advice for Consumers When Selling Precious Metals or Jewelry
The State Division of Consumer Affairs provides important advice and information for those wishing to sell their precious metals or jewelry, in the following publications:
Consumer tips include:
- Know with whom you are doing business. The buyer of precious metals and jewelry must include their name and address in all advertisements and at the point of purchase.
- Remember that any weighing and testing of your precious metals or jewelry must be done in plain view of you, the seller.
- Check the scale being used to weigh your precious metals or jewelry. The scale must bear a blue New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures sticker, dated to show the scale has been tested by the State within the last 12 months. Make sure the scale bears a seal that is not broken; a broken seal indicates possible tampering.
- Prices must be prominently posted.
- Be sure to get a complete sales receipt. The receipt 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.
- After the sale, the buyer is required to keep the item purchased for at least two business days; and to keep a serialized receipt of each transaction for at least one year.
Prosecutor Soriano said the County Detectives who participated in the enforcement action were drawn from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Burglary Task Force, under the command of Detective-Sergeant Joseph J. Walsh.
The State Office of Weights and Measures inspectors were led by Robert J. Campanelli, Acting State Superintendent of the Office of Weights and Measures, and John T. McGuire, State Supervisor of Enforcement for the Office of Weights and Measures. State Weights and Measures Investigators Kathy Belknap, James Logothetis, Rick Pluymers, Robert Spiegel, and Yocelin Tejada, participated in the investigation.
The charges on indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they plead guilty or are proven guilty by the State.