Buyer (and seller) BEWARE: The Anti-fencing law and The story of how I got involved in a similar predicament.
Hey all and welcome again to the RIG's Den, the monthly column from your peeps at the RIG store. For this month's column I'd like to dedicate some space again to buying and selling instruments:
Many a time when I would chance upon a thought provoking photo with a long ass narrative on Facebook. Heck! It's this generation's modern take on the chain mail and all that meme theory (go ahead and Google that). Some are real and informative others are downright ridiculous and bordering on the stupid. Sometimes a dead baby, sometimes a picture of an inspiring cancer survivor and sometimes, just a picture of a taxi and his plate number and a long retelling of the passenger's woes with said taxi. Whatever, I didn't have a proper opening for the article.
This week's story is sort of related to a taxi and buying and selling gear online.
Now, you probably heard about internet scams in almost all of the buying and selling circles online. They are Horror stories :selling defective items, ghost shipment scams, violent hold ups and all that bad rap. But mine is not like that, no sir, no scams or nothing but still a lot of pain in the ass.
The story started a few months ago, I being a keen buy and seller would score hordes of shops, websites and friends of friends just to acquire new stuff. I was tipped that there was a thrift store nearby my place that was selling some pedals for a real cheap amount of money (for the sake of everyone's privacy, I will no longer name the pedals, the store and the people involved). The price was so ridiculous that I didn't even bother to check it out. Come two weeks later I chanced upon the area and decided to take a look I was shocked, 8 pedals were being sold for a real bargain of a price. The said pedals value would've been more than double the amount I paid for. So I, being the bargain finder that I am, reserved the pedals with a downpayment and then bought the pedals after 2 days. I went home tested everything and everything looked good. During the next few days I proceeded to clean the items, take pictures and post the stuff for sale at my page.
Then the bad shit happened, after about 2 weeks in, a prospective buyer called, made arrangements and then scheduled a meet up. To my surprise during the meet up there were these two guys who came forward and one of them claimed that the items being sold (by me) were alerted and reported missing at a local police station. (I'm trying to avoid using the word "stolen" as nobody has proven that yet). I told him "how can you prove ownership?" He then showed me some boxes with the serial numbers that matched the item that I was selling, he also showed me a couple of receipts that showed that he really purchased said items along with a missing items report he filed at his local police station. He even showed me Facebook pics of the item from gigs showing him using the said items. He claims that the items we're left at a taxi after one of his gigs (again I'm avoiding using the word stolen to show no prejudice).
During the course of the discussion I kept calm, no police we're involved and the dude who claimed the items never coerced me in anyway. After seeing all the proofs of purchase and hearing him out , I calmly told him "I don't usually reveal the sources of items but since this is a touchy case, I will tell you that I bought them from a thrift store." I calmly proceeded to show him that I have a receipt from the thrift store where I got my items and assured him that I was a buyer in good faith when I purchased the items. Since the store was near my place I offered to drive him there to talk to the owner, there was a long discussion between him and the store's owner. The store owner even verified that it was indeed a taxi driver who sold them the items. I was there and I listened to them chat, the owner pretty much wanted to get legal advice first before taking any action to which I calmly replied, "I'm willing to return to all the pedals and file no case if either party (at this point I didn't care who) would reimburse me the amount I paid for at the thrift store."
We exchanged details and contact info. I left home with no pedals (I returned them DUH!) and no money got reimbursed, which left me a little frustrated. I went home and did some Googling around and tried to find out about my rights.
This is where the anti fencing law comes in:
RESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 1612 or ANTI-FENCING LAW OF 1979 is a law that criminalizes the act of buying and/or selling of stolen items.
Section 2 of this law defines "fencing" as the act of any person who, with intent gain for himself or for another, shall buy, receive, possess, keep, acquire, conceal, sell or dispose of, or shall buy and sell, or in any other manner deal in any article, item, object or anything of value which he knows, or should be known to him, to have been derived from the proceeds of the crime of robbery or theft.
You can read PD1612 or Anti fencing law of 1979 here.
From what I've read though (Disclaimer: I'm no lawyer.)
1. It is the store's obligation to check with the police any item from an unlicensed dealer before selling it (in this case before selling it, the pedals, to me as the buyer).
I would however, by definition still be liable because I bought the items and intended to sell it albeit not knowing where they came from.
2. It would be hard to define if the said pedals were "stolen" by the taxi or simply "left" there by fault of the owner's negligence or the taxi driver's negligence to return the said pedals hence. I'm not claiming that said items were stolen in this article.
3. I would have no beef with the owner of the pedals since I returned the pedals already, the liability mostly goes to the thrift store for selling the said pedals to me (or I could be wrong here).
4. It would be more costly for everybody if we sued the heck out of each other.
During the evening I have received a text from the thrift store's owner, we made arrangements and he assured me that he would fix this mess.
The next day we met and I got back my money. So, that was fast and to think I thought I needed to pay for a lawyer whew! And that was that, it was the "happy ending" to that pain in the ass day for me. Pretty much all the fuss was for the good, the dude got his items back, I got my money back and the store did not suffer legal and criminal liabilities.
But to sum up here are some lessons and tips that I learned which can help you when faced with a similar circumstance. Be careful where you buy items, possession of alerted (stolen or otherwise) items can be grounds for fencing (which is a criminal liability- READ: jail).
If you must, call the local police station to inquire about any alerted items. Some online communities are also on the lookout for reported stolen and missing items which may be going around the second hand market, so it's not a bad idea to check with them too.
Although no one really practices securing a permit when selling second hand items online, the law states that any second hand item to be sold must be cleared by the police first for x number of days before being offered for sale (PD1612-/IRR-lawyered!)
Never believe any claim of ownership without any substantial proof (look for receipts and other evidences). Be careful of con artists and swindlers.
If ever the authorities are involved it is best to seek legal advice first before doing any action. If you suspect any foul motives and corrupt practices from involved authorities decline to any negotiations without first consulting a lawyer. If the authorities are barging at your home, always look for a warrant, again , seek legal advice first. Beware of the "sumama na lang po kayo sa presinto" modus which often than not leads to bad shit.
If the items are proven to be in the alert list (missing or stolen), cooperate with the authorities or at least follow the law.
Be firm but don't be rude when dealing with the parties that are involved. One of the reasons that this fiasco of mine went without any hassle is that, the involved parties never gave anyone a bad time, no verbal tirades, no slurs, no threats. People talked and people listened at the end of the day the items got returned, no one goes to jail and no law suits were filed. And that's it for this month's column. I hope people can learn from this story. Maybe next time I wouldn't be compelled to write a serious and gritty ass article and maybe we poke fun at some other topic or see some awesome gear reviews and stuff. Til' next time.