FARMERS BRANCH (CBSDFW.COM) – It arrives by the truck load; the unique and the unusual. Delivery man, J.T., is dropping off two eight-foot metal poles with holes running up the sides. “They’re football helmet dryers,” J.T. explains as he pulls them off a large truck. “After the end of the season, when they wash the helmets and clean them out, they put pegs in the holes and put the helmets on them so they can dry out,” he added.
J.T. drives and delivers for Propertyroom.com. On this day, he’s dropping off merchandise to a warehouse in Farmers Branch. ”You would be amazed at the stuff people buy; or let’s say, I am,” J.T. recalls as he unloads a home gym with a full set of weights.
From coffins to coins, most of the items in the warehouse were likely stolen before being confiscated by police. Since the items were never claimed by their rightful owners, they’ve been put up for auction. It’s basically E-bay for cops. ”It’s an online flea market. You’ll find everything. It’s crazy,” laughs Propertyroom.com’s C.E.O., P.J. Bellomo.
The company was started ten years ago by a police officer in Long Beach, New York. According to Bellomo, nearly 2500 police and sheriff departments, nationwide, send their stolen and confiscated items to Propertyroom.com for auction on the internet. ”People will steal just about anything and people will buy just about anything,” explained Bellomo.
Along with the typical jewelry, laptops and TVs, bidders will also find bicycles, chainsaws and lawnmowers up for auction.
And then there’s the completely bizarre. ”We got a colonoscopy machine,” Bellomo chuckled. When we figured out what it was, the guy running the warehouse couldn’t find anyone who wanted to touch the machine, so it went up on the website, untested,” he added. Turns out, someone bought it.
Bidders can even bid on cash. Iraqi money, complete with Saddam Hussein’s image, is also up for grabs on the website. So is fine and not-so-fine art. The bidding has already begun for a limited edition portrait of Wile E. Coyote? Anvil, not included.
Bellomo says there are some items that are off-limits and will never go up for sale, including pornography and drug paraphernalia.
According to the company, 25 police and sheriff departments in North Texas have contracts with Propertyroom.com. Items sold from those departments generate cash for their cities. ”It’s a lot easier for us. It keeps us from having our staff go through those items, make sure they’re in working condition, transport the items and then put them online,” explained Sgt. Pedro Criado of the Fort Worth Police Department.
In Fort Worth, at least 50% of the profits come back to the city. Police say it generates up to $13,000 a month for the general fund. So while a set of dentist chairs up for sale may bring back painful memories for many people, it also brings in money that may help cities avoid painful budget cuts.