CLEVELAND -- Businesses beware of the buying or selling of illegal precious metals.

Councilman Jay Westbrook led the charge and passage of a "Precious Metals Dealer Law" which imposes fines and even jail time for any businesses which illegally buy or sell precious metals.

This effort hopefully will deter thieves from stealing precious metals and then selling them to an unlicensed operation in order to get a quick dollar.

"Our desperate economic times are causing desperate measures by thieves looking to make quick cash," said Councilman Westbrook. "We have seen a sharp rise in theft of precious metals and jewelry from homes across Cleveland, including my own. Thieves can quickly sell these stolen goods at unlicensed businesses that will pay cash."

There are signs, billboards, television and radio ads everywhere frombusinesses claiming "We Buy Gold."

There have been manybreak-ins recentlyreporting theft of gold, silver, platinum or other precious metals and jewelry.

To the owner,these objects havesentimental value as well as monetary value.

Within the city of Cleveland's authority under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4728, precious metals dealers must maintain a license with the State of Ohio and register with Cleveland. This "Precious Metals Dealer Law" will require adherence with State Law.

"Precious metals dealer" means a person who is engaged in the business of purchasing articles made of or containing gold, silver, platinum, or other precious metals or jewels of any description if, in any manner, including any form of advertisement or solicitation of customers, the person holds himself, herself, or itself out to the public as willing to purchase such articles.

Businesses that violate any provision of this chapter would be guilty of:
· A third degree misdemeanor for a first offense (maximum 60 days imprisonment/$500 fine);
· guilty of a second degree misdemeanor for a second offense (maximum 90 days imprisonment/$750 fine);
· and guilty of a first degree misdemeanor for a third and each subsequent offense (6 months imprisonment/$1,000 fine)