Retired officers make millions with Web site


The Associated Press

DENVER, Colo. — In the mood to buy a conversation piece? Say, an ancient Tibetan bead? An autographed comic book? Maybe a set of police vehicle lights?

At http://www.propertyroom.com – where unclaimed items from more than 1,000 police departments are auctioned with most bids starting at $1 – jewelry, artwork, vehicles and electronics are just a few categories.

PropertyRoom.Com of Mission Viejo, Calif., provides an alternative to typical police auctions, held when departments clean out evidence rooms: It will pick up property, refurbish it as needed, auction it and deliver it to the successful buyer.

Founded in 199 by former police officers, the Web site’s first auction was held in January 2001 when it sold a camera for $20. It had contracts with at least 700 law enforcement agencies by 2006 and has more than 1,000 today.

Chief Executive P.J. Bellomo credits the site’s growth to the decision last year to set a minimum $1 bid on most items.

“Things sell for $1 every single day,” he said.

Bellomo declined to release revenue details but said his company is aiming for $30 million in sales this year.

Police Sgt. David Lizotte of Oswego, N.Y., said his department gets about $200 a month selling things on PropertyRoom.com – and he no longer has to arrange an annual sale to get rid of the stuff.

“It’s been fantastic for us,” Lizotte said. “It reaches so many more people.”

Other departments under contract with PropertyRoom.com are Seattle’s, New York’s and the forces in Indianapolis, Albuquerque, N.M., and Aspen, Colo.

Among the most unusual pieces PropertyRoom.com has sold are a commercial knitting machine, a generator and a coffin. “We don’t typically ask and so we don’t always know the circumstances, but what the heck went on that someone stole a coffin?” Bellomo asked.

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