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Precious metals law not so new

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By Jenny Arnold

Dealing in precious metals is a hot business.

But not just anyone can sell gold and silver from just anywhere. It requires a permit from and a background check by the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.

According to state law, the permit is required for “any person, corporation or partnership who buys precious metal or precious or semiprecious stones or gems from the general public, whether in bulk or in manufactured form.”

The license costs $50, and must be renewed and paid for each year. The permit is required in addition to any other business licenses required.

Belk said a recent TV news segment showed “gold parties” taking place at homes in Indian Land. Precious metals like gold, which is selling for close to $1,000 an ounce, are a hot commodity right now. But home parties like the ones held in Indian Land are not legal. He said he doesn’t think the people involved intentionally broke the law.

“The law’s been on the books for a while,” said sheriff’s office Maj. David Belk. “But I imagine folks are not aware of the law.”

Many county residents received a large flier in the mail notifying them that a company would be at Sambo’s 903 Drive-In buying gold this week. Belk said the business has a legitimate business license, and the drive-in is a permanent location. The company also received a precious metals permit from the sheriff’s office.

Belk said the law benefits customers because dealers must fill out an application and undergo a background check.

“It helps show they are operating a legitimate business,” he said.

Permits must be posted conspicuously at the place of business. State law says that dealers may not operate on public property or from a vehicle, flea market, hotel room or any other temporary location.

Dealers are also required to keep a book detailing the date of a purchase; amount of money or other property exchanged; name, sex, race, age, address and driver’s license number of the person selling the items; and the number, nature and brand name of the items, articles or things bought. The description must include size, weight, patterns or engraving or any unusual identification marks.

No dealer may buy precious metal or stones or gems from a minor unless accompanied by a parent or guardian with appropriate identification, according to the law.

The penalties for violating the Precious Metals Act are:

• First offense – not more than $500 or 90 days in jail or both

• Second offense – not more than $2,000 or one year in prison or both

• Third offense or above – not more than $5,000 or three years in prison or both

The sheriff’s office is not issuing citations yet.

“We want to make sure everyone is aware of the law,” Belk said. “We’re giving everyone a grace period.”

The applications for the permit are available at the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, 1941 Pageland Highway.

Belk said Eric Brown, the department’s crime prevention officer, is handling the permitting process. Brown has been notifying businesses of the law.

“We’ve had more questions than complaints,” Belk said. “It’s been a smooth transition.”

For details about the permit, call the sheriff’s office at 283-3388.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Arnold at jarnold@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151