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Jeweler Headed to Jail for Scheme Targeting Military Families

He was charged with felony conspiracy to engage in illegal financing and debt collection practices.

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A California jeweler has been sentenced to 90 days in jail for a scheme targeting military families.

Ramil “Randy” Abalkhad, owner of Romano’s Jewelers, was charged with felony conspiracy to engage in illegal financing and debt collection practices targeting sailors and Marines in San Diego.

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Abalkhad was sentenced to three years of felony probation, including a requirement that he serve 90 days in jail. Abalkhad will also be required to pay restitution to victims and to cancel outstanding debts owed by those victims.

Co-defendant Melina Abalkhad, who was previously sentenced, will be required to complete a misdemeanor diversion program for her role in operating Romano’s affiliate, MBNB Financial.

“Mr. and Mrs. Abalkhad thought they could get away with targeting our young men and women in uniform,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Today’s sentencing should send a clear message to them and others looking to commit predatory crimes against our service members.”

According to a press release from the attorney general’s office, Romano’s had several retail locations in California, including stores near Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. The stores allegedly targeted young Marines and sailors, some fresh out of boot camp, encouraging them to buy jewelry for themselves and for their families and loved ones on credit.

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According to the criminal complaint, Abalkhad failed to provide legally required disclosures about monthly payments, interest rates or others terms of financing. Those customers who fell behind on their payments were allegedly harassed by the defendants’ debt collectors. In addition, the complaint alleged that Romano’s used debt collectors who falsely posed as attorneys and illegally threatened servicemembers with court martial and other military disciplinary actions.

The California Department of Justice filed a 14-count felony complaint charging Abalkhad with conspiracy to violate the Unruh Act, which protects consumers who buy goods or services on credit, and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which protects Californians against unlawful debt collection practices.

A third defendant, MBNB employee Ramiro Salinas, was also charged with conspiracy to engage in unlawful debt collection. He was sentenced on Oct. 18.

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Jewelry Brand Opens 2 Brick-and-Mortar Stores Following $13M Investment Round

They’re located in New York.

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AUrate, a New York based direct-to-consumer fine jewelry brand, plans to use part of the $13 million that it recently raised to build a brick-and-mortar presence.

The company is opening two permanent stores in New York City, Women’s Wear Daily reports. They’ll be located in SoHo and on Madison Avenue.

They’ll “feature experiential technology that introduces consumers to the raw materials and production methods enlisted to create Aurate jewelry,” according to the report.

They were set to open Oct. 12.

AUrate announced in late June that it had completed a $13 million investment round. With the Series A funding, led by Michael Platt of BlueCrest Capital, the company said it planned to expand its online and offline operations and direct investment in technology. Additional participants included Point King Capital, Arab Angel Fund and Drake Management.

AUrate soft-launched in 2015, when co-founders Bouchra Ezzahraoui and Sophie Kahn held full-time jobs at Goldman Sachs & Marc Jacobs, respectively.

The brand was officially launched in 2017, with both online and offline stores. The co-founders went on to raise $2.6M in a seed round.

Read more at Women’s Wear Daily

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De Beers Lab-Grown Diamonds to Make Brick-and-Mortar Debut

It’s a test run that will begin this month.

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Lab-grown diamonds from De Beers-owned Lightbox will soon be available at certain Bloomingdale’s and Reeds Jewelers stores.

It’s a test run that will begin this month, Forbes reports. The effort marks Lightbox’s brick-and-mortar debut.

Lightbox pieces are lab-grown diamonds set in accessibly priced fashion jewelry. They’ve been sold since September 2018 online and in pop-up shops.

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The pieces will be sold at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship in New York and its San Francisco location store. And they’ll be available at 30 Reeds Jewelers, primarily in the Southeast, Forbes reports.

The trial is expected to last as long as six months.

Lightbox debuted in 2018 with products priced from $200 for a quarter-carat stone to $800 for a one-carat stone. It started with pink, blue and white lab-grown diamonds in a selection of earring and necklace designs, and the company later said it was expanding the line with bracelets and stackable rings.

Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers, said last year that Lightbox would “transform the lab-grown diamond sector by offering consumers a lab-grown product they have told us they want but aren’t getting: affordable fashion jewelry that may not be forever, but is perfect for right now.”

The move to brick-and-mortar is no surprise. Lightbox Managing Director Steve Coe announced at the JCK Las Vegas show in June that he expected to begin market testing the brand in retail stores this year. After the company’s $94 million plant in Gresham, OR, goes online in 2020, production will increase and the brand will be offered to a broad range of retailers by 2021. Color offerings and jewelry-design styles will likely be expanded as well.

Coe said consumer research has backed up the De Beers belief that laboratory-grown diamonds work best as fashion accessories for everyday wear, and not for significant occasions, such as engagement, for which consumers say they prefer natural diamonds.

Read more at Forbes

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350 Jobs at Risk as British Jewelry Brand Enters Administration

It’s been dealing with ‘difficult trading conditions.’

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British jewelry brand Links of London has named Deloitte as administrator, Reuters reported.

“The Company has had to contend with difficult trading conditions that have impacted the whole retail sector,” joint administrator Matt Smith was quoted saying in a statement.

Deloitte has not announced job cuts, but 350 positions could be at risk, according to Reuters.

The administrator plans to continue operating Links of London, which belongs to Greek jewelry firm Folli Follie, and look at the possibility of selling the company.

Links of London sells through outlets in Europe, the U.S., Asia and online. Among its products are jewelry, watches and cufflinks.

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Currently on its website, Links of London states: “Following the appointment of the Joint Administrators, the Company’s website has unfortunately been temporarily suspended until further notice and therefore is unable to process any online sales.”

The site advises visitors to go to their local Links of London store.

Read more at Reuters

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