By Emily A. PappasA lawyer who specializes in jewelry frauds who specializes for the Federal Trade Commission is trying to help people who have lost money from jewelry fraudsters.
Jewelers have been stealing jewelry from consumers for years, and for years now the courts have largely failed to punish the criminals.
“People have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Richard Jewell, a partner at the law firm Cohen & Day.
He is representing several victims.
“They’ve been left with an impossible situation: They don’t know who they’re going to sue, and they don’t have access to a lawyer.
I think they’re scared to sue.
They don’ have any recourse.”
Jewell says the court system has been a “huge” failure.
It’s been almost two years since a California man lost more than $1 million from a jewel thief who took his ring from a jewelry store.
The case is now being litigated by a California court, but he is worried that the system has failed.
“I don’t think the system is designed to protect the consumer,” he said.
“I think the problem is the system can’t protect the consumers.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that jewelers have to prove they have a business reason to sell their stolen goods.
But it didn’t address the problem of victims who don’t realize they’ve been duped and who believe they have lost the item.
“The court’s ruling was a bit of a surprise,” said Jewell.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a decision on this issue.
So we haven’t seen a lot of clarity from the courts.”
Jewelers who sell stolen items are required to file a report to the FTC.
If the FTC determines the case is serious, it can pursue a civil suit.
If it determines the theft is a minor offense, it doesn’t have to file an enforcement action.
But the FTC does not have a mechanism to investigate cases of theft.
“If we do find a violation, we can take enforcement action,” said Sharon Kohn, a spokesperson for the FTC, but “the case is often closed.”
Jewels are considered a form of intellectual property that must be protected by law.
But for years it has been difficult for consumers to pursue complaints of theft because of the lack of a court-authorized remedy.
“The criminal element of the business is still going to be able to steal your jewelry,” said Kohn.
“There’s no enforcement mechanism to hold them accountable.”
Jewells have been forced to rely on the courts to enforce theft.
But Jewelers say they are finding that they have little or no legal recourse to recover stolen property.
“We have no way of making an honest claim,” said David Schlesinger, an attorney at the Law Office of the National Association of Jewelers.
“You have to be pretty lucky to win in court.”
The law is complex, and experts say there are no clear rules on how the courts should apply their interpretation of the law.
The law can be interpreted differently by different jurisdictions.
“This is a complex area that is ripe for interpretation,” said Michael Hennessey, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania.
Schlesinger says it’s important for consumers and jewelers to know that they’re protected.
“In the past, there was a feeling that if you lost a case, you’d be able find out that somebody else had done it.
That’s not the case anymore,” he told NPR.