Investigators say they're seeing more and more suspects like Scott Fysh. Someone with a theft record, allegedly stealing valuables from a home and then cashing in by selling the gold to a second hand dealer.
"In the last couple years there's been an increase in the number of shops in the area, and with that there's been an increase in the number of jewelry thefts," said Vermont State Police Trooper Ben Katz.
In Fysh's case, it was thousands of dollars worth of stolen jewelry sold to Martins Coins and Jewelry in South Burlington. Police say the store then sold the gold to a smelting operation before cops could unravel the crime.
Second hand dealers are supposed to hold items for ten days before reselling them, but in this case police say they were sold within two days. "I believe most shops do follow the rules. It's unfortunate to see in this case the rules weren't followed, because as I said earlier, had the rules been followed we would have been able to return this homeowners jewelry," Katz said.
Martins officials say the quick re-sell was an employee error and that they followed other rules like getting a photo ID -- even snapping images of the items Fysh sold. But increasingly police and prosecutors are seeing second hand dealers as being the biggest winners when homeowners become theft victims, and they want that to change.
"What we have to do is turn off the source of the money going to the addicts that allows them to buy the drugs and that's the second hand dealers," said Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan. Donovan says the Fysh case is under investigation and Martins could face charges. But the penalty is just a fine and he wants tougher laws for second hand dealers. "We need a period longer than ten days that these dealers have to hold this property before they ship it out. And I think we need to consider whether non-compliance with that is a criminal penalty not just a civil penalty," Donovan said.
Lawmakers are looking at beefing up requirements for dealers by making them hold items for 30 days. "I do believe that they do the best that they can. We heard a lot of testimony from dealers who actually exceed best practices of what we'd be introducing in this bill," said Rep. Diane Lampher (D-Addison).
Donovan's tried to use current law to go after an antiques dealer for selling stolen property, but lost the case earlier this year. The way the law is written now prosecutors have to prove dealers know the items are stolen. "That's an evidentiary hurdle that we have trouble with," Donovan said.
But even investigators say it's balance. Businesses need to make a profit, while police need their help tracking down thieves. "It's a fine line between being heavy handed with the dealers and recognizing that there has to be a certain level of cooperation so that we can recover and return stolen property," Trooper Katz said.
John Martin, the owner of Martin's Coins and Jewelry, declined our request for an on camera interview. His attorney has been working with lawmakers as they review requirements for second hand dealers. He argues holding items for longer than ten days will cut profits, but he also says Martins supports requiring dealers to be licensed and to pay people with checks, not cash.