Pssst, wanna buy a stolen Rolex or diamond?

August 16, 2011

Wanna deal on a diamond? Time to get a new Rolex? Sure, they might be stolen goods, but it’s all perfectly legal.

Seriously.

Say what?

Police departments nationwide recover all sorts of stuff when they arrest bad guys and there are some real gems amidst the eclectic array of goods that gather in evidence rooms. Enter PropertyRoom.com, a site that has grown exponentially over its dozen years of life.

PropertyRoom.com has become the agent for some 2,600 police departments that have to purge their evidence rooms of items where there the owner can’t be found, insurance has already been paid out and the insurer has no interest in the item. More than $36 million generated by sales from the site has gone back to municipalities.

CEO Tom Lane said he was caught up in the big burst of auction sites in the late 1990s and was trying to identify sources of inventory to sell. He harkened to his days as a detective on Long Island charged with purging the department’s property room.

Lane reached out to some old friends, who had risen up the ranks and allowed him to post the items on his site. The result was a boon to police departments (and municipalities) nationwide whose auctions went from sparsely attended local affairs to nationwide bidding contests.

So appealing was this new model that New York City Police Department climbed on board as did police in Los Angeles, Houston, Baltimore and Boston and hundreds of others in between.

The result is an ever-changing inventory that tilts toward electronics and jewelry (the things thieves like to take), but has included a colonoscopy machine and a casket, Lane said.

What kind of deals can you get on upscale loot? Here’s a sampling from the higher end:

  • a 6.4 carat diamond ring valued at more than $100,000 that sold for less than $31,000
  • A Rolex President Diamond Watch valued at $28,000 that sold for $12,600
  • A 4.92 carat diamond ring in a 14K White Gold setting valued at $30,000 sold for $14,000
  • an ideal cut 2.04 carat round brilliant diamond valued at $22,500 and sold for $10,000.

On any given day on the site, you can find fancy watches, tablet computers and collectible coins. Lane assures that anything that claims to be a brand of note actually is. Fakes, he said, are unceremoniously destroyed.

“If you buy a Rolex, you’re going to get a Rolex,” he said. “We take a hammer to the phony Rolexes.”

While the items for sale have been cleared by the various police departments, from time to time, victims see something on the site that they claim had been taken from them.

“If someone sees something and notifies us and can validate it, we will stop the auction,” he said. “Everybody’s been a victim of a crime at some point in their life. You always want to get your stuff back.”

Lane figured that about 50 items of the tens of thousands sold off the site have been claimed by their rightful owners.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a deal on a pair of hidden camera spy sunglasses (brand new), you know where you can look.

 

 

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