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Illinois-Based Gold Buyer Shuts Down Amid Fraud Probe

Are gold buyers giving you the most money for your jewelry? (CBS)

Are gold buyers giving you the most money for your jewelry? (CBS)

Pam Zekman Pam Zekman
Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Pam Zekman serves on CBS 2 Chicago’s...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – One of the country’s largest gold buyers has shut down, and is now under investigation by state and federal agencies.

The action follows a CBS team investigation in five states, including here in Chicago, where 2 Investigator Pam Zekman went undercover to expose how company buyers misled consumers about the value of their gold.

The company is THR Associates, based in Springfield. Using a variety of names, it ran gold buying events in hotels across the country, saying customers would get fair and honest deals.

Now U.S. Postal Inspectors are investigating the Springfield-based company, and so is the consumer fraud division of the Illinois Attorney General’s office.

When CBS 2 went undercover to try to sell gold jewelry to THR, experts first valued the jewelry at more than $10,000, but warned the most we could expect from legitimate gold buyers was about 70 percent of that value.

However, a buyer for THR Associates offered only 38 percent value at a show in May, after failing to properly test the karats, and weighed all the jewelry together.

CBS 2 later asked her supervisor about the $3,800 offer.

“We always buy as low as we can,” the supervisor said.

As CBS 2 disclosed in May, other CBS producers in three cities were told 18 karat pieces were only 10 or 14 karats – and were offered less than a quarter of the gold’s actual value.

“I think a lot of managers did think it was okay to lie,” said former THR employee Dolly Dubard, who quit and is now one of more than a dozen former THR employees talking about practices that helped THR owner Jeffrey Parsons pile up $330 million in sales last year.

“I was always feeling guilty,” Dubard said.

Those employees, like Kenny Birdsall, were also upset that checks they wrote to buy customers’ gold bounced – $1.7 million dollars’ worth of bounced checks in April.

“It was very embarrassing,” Birdsall said.

Parsons could not be reached for comment.

A THR spokesman previously said company guidelines prohibit sales staff from lying to customers about the value of their gold, and that those who got bad checks would get their money.