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Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010 04:03 pm

Traveling gold buyers play lowball

Buying Roadshow linked to convicted fraudster

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A group of traveling gold buyers visited Springfield last week, raising questions about their business practices and associations with a convicted fraudster.

A group calling themselves “Estate Buyers Group” set up shop at the Ramada Springfield North, 3281 Northfield Drive, from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2, in what it called the “original Buying Roadshow,” inviting Springfield residents to bring coins, jewelry and other collectibles for appraisal and purchase. Jim Hausman, owner of The Gold Center in Springfield, says the group appraised valuables at far below market value while they were here, essentially scamming their customers.

Hausman says he took a rare coin valued at about $5,000 for appraisal, mixed in with several coins of low value. He was offered only $200 for the whole lot, he says.

An Illinois Times investigation found that the group offered significantly less than market value for silver coins taken for appraisal. With the price of silver at $22.09 per ounce, an Illinois Times reporter took two one-ounce silver coins and two smaller silver coins weighing just over a third of an ounce each for appraisal. The value of the silver in the coins was about $60, but an appraiser who identified himself as Ron offered the reporter $40 for the whole lot.

That may not sound like a bad deal, Hausman says, until you consider that the offering price is 30 percent below the “melt value” of the silver. Hausman says his business pays about 99 percent of the value for precious metals and makes up for the small profit margin through volume.

When asked about the low offering price, Ron, the appraiser, said people are under no obligation to sell their valuables. Eugene Bascou, one of the men in charge of the Buying Roadshow, said the coins presented by Illinois Times were worth less money because they were damaged. He then walked away, saying, “I’m not going to do an interview with you.”

Estate Buyers Group has ties to a convicted fraudster, William J. Ulrich, who was ordered in 1990 to pay almost $11.2 million in damages to consumers by the United States District Court of Minnesota for misrepresenting the value of coins he sold as investments. Estate Buyers Group shares a telephone number with Goldstar Travel and Advertising Agency – also known as Goldstar Estate Buyers Corp., which is owned by a member of Ulrich’s family with Ulrich himself listed as a consultant, according to the Better Business Bureau. The same phone number is also shared by Tyre, Bailey, Roberts & Associates and Estate Buyers, which shares a Hudson, Wis., address with Goldstar Estate Buyers Corporation. That company also owns the trademark rights to the “Buying Roadshow” name.

Ulrich also attempted to avoid paying the damages in his case by collaborating with National City Bank to hide some of his assets, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Urlich was prosecuted on federal racketeering charges and sentenced to six years in prison.

Hausman at the Gold Center says he alerted the State Journal-Register about the issue because of a heavy advertising campaign in that paper by Estate Buyers Group, but the management of the paper allegedly declined to investigate. A request for comment from SJ-R management went unanswered.

Hausman says he has and will continue to lobby the City of Springfield to regulate or ban such traveling road shows.

“If you want to get rid of stolen goods, you want to take them to one of these traveling gold buyers,” Hausman says. “There’s no records and there’s no way to track what goes on there. It’s an absolute scam, and it needs to stop.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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