BOSTON (CBS) – With the price of gold doubling over the past three and a half years, you may be thinking of cashing in some of your old jewelry. But you need to do some research before handing your precious items over. The I-Team went undercover with CBS stations across the country and found one major company ripping people off.
Undercover cameras catch an employee of the Treasure Hunters Roadshow undervaluing gold. When CBS producers try to sell an 18K gold bangle bracelet at one of THR’s traveling gold buying road shows, they’re told it’s only 14 carats and offered cheap money for a sale.
“I would say shame on them for duping the public,” says Helen Werner.
Werner had a few silver dollars she wanted to sell so she headed to the Treasure Hunters Roadshow in Peabody last March looking for a deal. She sold two coins for 20 bucks but when she deposited the company’s check, she got it back from the bank. The check didn’t clear and her bank charged her a $20 fee as a result so Helen was out $40. Small money for one of the largest gold buying operations in the country that raked in $300 million last year.
The I-Team worked with CBS stations across the country and brought our jewels to THR’s and its affiliate gold shows in six different cities. In three cases, CBS producers were told their 18 carat gold was only 14 carats. And when it comes to paying for gold it’s pennies on the dollar. The company’s own buying guide instructs employees to make a first offer of $1.50 per pennyweight. The going rate was more than 30 times that.
We hit a show at the Hampton Inn in Dover, New Hampshire in April. We walked in with almost $6,300 worth of gold and walked out with a check for just over $1100, less than one fifth of its value.
Dover, New Hampshire Police Lieutenant Brant Dolleman says, “Everybody knows gold is expensive right now. There are a lot of companies out there trying to buy gold. Without making any sweeping generalizations it doesn’t surprise me that people would try to turn that to their advantage.”
The spokesperson for THR & Associates, Matthew Enright, checked out some of the gold and watched the undercover video where one employee tells us 18 carat gold is only 10 carats. He says he doesn’t like what he sees but tells us the problem transactions are a very small percentage of the overall business the company does. Enright adds, “We’re not in the business of lying to people. Seeing that is obviously a concern to me. Do I feel guilty? I’m not the one out there doing those types of things.”
Helen Werner says it’s not about the money, “It’s the principal. Forty dollars is not a lot of money but you’re a business doing business in these states taking people’s coins and jewelry. If you’re going to do business you should do it the right way.”
When we first contacted THR on Helen Werner’s behalf we were told the company would re-issue her a check. That hasn’t happened and since then our calls and emails have gone unanswered. The I-Team has learned the company’s president, Jeffrey Parsons, owes the IRS more than three million dollars. On another note, the company has been splurging on luxuries purchasing a country club style residence and a plane. The plane was paid in part with silver coins.