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2 Accused of Selling Counterfeit Pandora Jewelry in $2M Fraud Case

They allegedly defrauded e-commerce customers.

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A federal grand jury has indicted two residents of Covina, CA, on a federal conspiracy charge, mail fraud, and trafficking in counterfeit goods.

They’re accused of importing and selling counterfeit Pandora Jewelry and Ray-Ban sunglasses. Xiaoying Xu, age 34, a Chinese citizen, and Yiwen Zhu, age 34, a Chinese citizen and legal permanent resident of the U.S., allegedly conspired with others to defraud e-commerce customers, obtaining more than $2 million in the scheme.

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“These defendants allegedly imported counterfeit goods from China and sold them as legitimate merchandise using the registered trademarks of legitimate companies,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “Those who traffic in counterfeit goods are committing a crime which results in American jobs lost, American business profits stolen, and American consumers tricked into receiving substandard products.”

The crimes are alleged to have occurred from about August 2016 until approximately April 2019, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

The indictment alleges that the defendants used their residence and offices in El Monte and Alhambra, CA, as destination points for shipments of counterfeit goods shipped from Hong Kong and China. Xu and Zhu allegedly repackaged the counterfeit goods, then mailed them to unsuspecting customers throughout the U.S.

The defendants allegedly used fraudulent accounts set up with e-commerce marketplace companies to sell the goods, misrepresenting to customers that they were authentic. Xu and Zhu obtained funds from the victims of the counterfeit scheme through fraudulently acquired customer accounts opened in the names of other people at a global online payment company, according to the release.

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The online payment company sent the victims’ money to Xu and Zhu by electronic transfer to bank accounts or by check, which the defendants then cashed at ATMs, the release states. The indictment alleges that the defendants then transferred the proceeds of the scheme from their bank accounts to other bank accounts opened in the names of other Chinese nationals.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and traffic in counterfeit goods; a maximum of 20 years in prison for each of six counts of mail fraud; and a maximum of 10 years in prison for each of six counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 76 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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World’s Largest Diamond Mine to Close ⁠— Here’s What That Could Mean

The mine is known for producing pink and red diamonds.

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Rio Tinto Group plans to close its Argyle mine in western Australia, and that could bring a rise in the price of pink diamonds.

The mine is well-known for producing pink and red diamonds, Bloomberg reports.

In fact, 90 percent of the world’s pink diamonds come from the mine, although such stones are only a tiny percentage of Argyle’s total production. The majority of its production consists of brown diamonds, which are less valuable.

The mine is the world’s largest producer of diamonds by volume.

Arnaud Soirat, head of copper and diamonds for Rio, told Bloomberg that operations will be shut down in late 2020. By then it’s expected that its supply of economically viable stones will have been exhausted.

Pat Godin, CEO of Stornoway Diamond Corp., has predicted that with the closure, “The rational offset between supply and demand should lead to price growth.”

He told Bloomberg that the effect could be “even more dramatic” for pink diamonds.

“You can imagine the laws of supply and demand will apply, and you can imagine the impact that will have on those very rare pink, red, blue and purple diamonds,” Godin said.

Read more at Bloomberg

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Fashion Jewelry Chain to Close All 261 Stores

3,000 employees could lose their jobs.

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Jewelry and accessories retailer Charming Charlie is closing all of its 261 stores in connection with its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed July 11.

Bloomberg reports that over 3,000 full- and -part-time workers could lose their jobs.

The bankruptcy filing is Charming Charlie’s second in the past two year, Bloomberg reports.

Store closing sales are being conducted by a joint venture consisting of Hilco Merchant Resources and SB360 Capital Partners, according to a press release.

Charming Charlie operates in 38 states. A full list of closing stores is available here.

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The liquidation is expected to take two months.

The company’s debt totals $82 million, according to Bloomberg. Its cash on hand amounted to only $6,000  as of the bankruptcy filing.

Charming Charlie is a Houston-based specialty retailer focused on fashion jewelry, handbags, apparel, gifts and beauty products.

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Serena Williams Wears the Most Unusual Ear Jewelry in Harper’s Bazaar Feature

Can you even call it an earring?

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A new Serena Williams feature in Harper’s Bazaar is sure to attract attention.

The tennis player insisted that the photos be unretouched, and the cover shot features her mostly exposed backside.

But what might be most interesting to jewelers is the unique ear ornament she wore in one of the photos. We’re not even sure you can call this Gucci accessory an earring.

Could this over-the-ear look catch on?

INSTORE style writer Becky Stone doesn’t think so, although she likes the concept.

“I can hear the siren song of this piece! It takes the concept of jewelry adorning the body and elevates it by having the jewel actually become the body,” Stone said. “The look is surprising, sensual, and playful – an appealing combination. Serena looks like she might be a golden robot from the future, and I’m into it.

“That being said, I think there are a lot of practical barriers to the gilded ear’s mainstream appeal. Can she hear? Is her ear sweaty? How does that thing even stay on? I imagine it would have to be custom fitted, which is probably enough to price it out of the possibility of true street style success. I’d be very interested to see a scaled down version: maybe a smaller cuff that fits over just the upper cartilage, or a closely fitted lobe piece that’s anchored with a post for wearability.”

Beth Bernstein, also an INSTORE style writer, also felt the look was unlikely to take off.

“It might work for an editorial shoot or a runway show, but I don’t believe it will ever make it as a trend for even the high-end,” she said. “It kind of looks like the ‘Joker’s Mask’ for the ear.”

Jewelry professionals posting in our INSTORE Community group on Facebook had a variety of reactions.

Deirdre Crosse of Cipher Gems wrote, “Serena Williams requires an extraordinary design for it to register with the viewer. It’s a bold choice of adornment for strong subject.”

Deric Metzger, owner of DeMer Jewelry, commented, “This is the ear climber trend taken to its maximum natural conclusion and it’s every bit as unpleasant as I imagined.”

Other jewelry that Williams wore for the photoshoot included Cartier earrings, a Bulgari bracelet, a David Yurman bracelet and chain and an Audemars Piguet watch.

The photos appear with an essay penned by Williams about standing up for herself and becoming the strong woman, athlete and mother she is today. The issue will be available on newsstands July 23.

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