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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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NFL Player Awarded $6.1M in Jewelry Fraud Lawsuit

The jeweler says he’ll appeal.

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Drew Brees, quarterback for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, has won $6.1 million in damages from a jeweler he claims sold him diamonds at grossly inflated prices.

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In a jury trial in San Diego, Drees said he bought $15 million in diamonds from Vahid Moradi and CJ Charles Jewelers over a four-year period ending in 2016, The Advocate reports. He said he’d become friends with Moradi and trusted him completely.

Brees said he and his wife, Brittany, were then told by an appraiser that they’ve overpaid by about $7 million.

The Breeses alleged fraud and breach of contract, as well as violation of California business law, according to The Advocate.

Moradi and his lawyer, Kevin Rooney, said they plan to appeal the jury’s decision. They said they “passionately disagree” with the verdict.

Moradi said he sold jewelry to the Breeses at a normal retail markup.

Read more at The Advocate

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Online Diamond Seller Files for Bankruptcy

Dozens of individuals and businesses are reportedly owed money.

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Enchanted Diamonds, a Manhattan-based diamond dealer, has filed for bankruptcy, the New York Daily News reports.

The company, which sells its products online, owes $1.8 million, according to the newspaper.

Much of the debt is to customers who claim they paid the company and didn’t receive their gems.

A filing in federal bankruptcy court indicates that the firm owes money to dozens of individuals and business entities across the U.S. and in other regions, including Asia.

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More than 50 customers are “pursuing restitution through a law firm hired by Rare Carat, an online aggregator for jewelers,” according to the Daily News.

Joshua Niamehr, president of Enchanted Gems, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday, according to the newspaper.

Read more at the New York Daily News

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Jeweler Accused of Stealing from Customers

He was arrested May 30.

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A jeweler in Lawrenceville, GA, has been charged with theft, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Timothy New, owner of The Bench Jewelers, is accused of shortchanging some customers who left their jewelry with him for consignment. He also allegedly failed to complete custom design jobs that he promised, and failed to return the money.

New, 55, has been charged with theft by conversion and theft by taking.

He was arrested May 30, according to the Journal-Constitution.

The business has been closed.

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“Detectives have served several search warrants, which yielded the recovery of a large amount of jewelry,” Lawrenceville police Lt. Jake Parker said in a press release. “We are seeking help and looking to return the jewelry to the confirmed owners, as well as identify additional victims.”

Read more at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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