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Consumer Watch

Real steals at online police auction

Selling seized items, Property Room can be your personal, legal fence.

February 10, 2008|David Colker | Times Staff Writer

Although Property Room runs its own auctions, there are similarities to EBay's operations, including online, 24/7 bidding with minimum increments. The biggest difference is that on Property Room, there is only one seller instead of hordes of them around the world.

Property Room picks up the items from the police departments. In California, the police can generally put unclaimed items up for auction after 90 days, but many are kept much longer if they're evidence in ongoing cases.

The company gets the goods on a consignment basis. If an item sells for less than $1,000, the company and police department split the proceeds. Over that amount, the department generally gets 75%.

Many of the sellers on EBay could give lessons to Property Room on how to take clear pictures of objects and give informative descriptions. On the other hand, Property Room has the advantage of giving bidders only one company to deal with instead of multiple and in some cases anonymous sellers.

And there is always a chance at another benefit: replacing stolen goods with stolen goods.

Along with the wheelchairs, Romero was loading car stereos into her van for resale.

She knows all too well a primary reason people want to buy them.

"Someone stole mine -- a Kenwood -- out of my car," Romero said.

In a recent Property Room auction, she found a similar model.

"I got a Kenwood back," she said with pride. "It was $10."


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