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Jewelry Chain Sued for Alleged Illegal Business Practices

It’s accused of preying on servicemembers.

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WATERTOWN, NY – New York’s attorney general has hit Harris Jewelry with a lawsuit claiming that the chain “used servicemembers as pawns in a predatory scheme.”

In a press release, Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood’s office states that the retailer, which has dozens of locations across the country, engaged in “false and deceptive acts and illegal lending in the financing of jewelry sales to active-duty servicemembers.”

“My office will not tolerate companies that seek to take advantage of New Yorkers in order to line their own pockets,” said Underwood.

Harris Jewelry said in a statement:

“Harris Jewelry will vigorously contest the inaccurate and baseless allegations raised by the New York State Attorney General. Harris Jewelry operates in full compliance with the laws that regulate our industry. Harris Jewelry stands behind its decades-old business model.  The New York Attorney General has unfortunately reached the wrong conclusions about our business and the work we do.

“For more than 60 years, Harris Jewelry has sold quality jewelry and watches to active duty military personnel, Reservists, National Guard, and Retirees. Today, the company continues to honor that tradition and enables its customers to purchase quality jewelry designed specifically for them, and to do so on credit terms customized to meet their needs.”

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The lawsuit is the result of an ongoing multistate investigation co-led by New York and Tennessee.

Specifically, it charges that Harris Jewelry allegedly engages in unfair, abusive, false and deceptive acts and practices, deceptive credit repair services, and illegal lending in the financing of jewelry sales to active-duty servicemembers. The company, headquartered in Hauppauge, NY, has stores near, and in some cases on, military bases around the country.

It is alleged that Harris Jewelry targets and then entices local servicemembers into the stores with “Operation Teddy Bear” — a purported charitable program in which Harris Jewelry sells teddy bears in military uniforms with promises of charitable donations.

In fact, “the complaint alleges that this is nothing more than a marketing ploy to dupe servicemembers into high-priced, illegal in-house financing contracts for vastly overpriced jewelry,” according to the release.

Harris Jewelry sells lines of military-themed jewelry and other commemorative items such as the “Mother’s Medal of Honor,” “Token of Pride Coin” and “Forever as One Dog Tag Necklace” on credit it provides under the name Consumer Adjustment Corp. USA, according to the release.

According to the release: “In reality, Consumer Adjustment Corp. is merely the alter ego of Harris Originals of NY, Inc., a relationship that, the Attorney General alleges, is never clearly disclosed to the consumer and is used to finance more than 90% of its sales.”

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The complaint further alleges that Harris Jewelry tells servicemembers it can provide them with an opportunity to build or improve their credit score through “The Harris Program” — the company’s own financing. Only after the servicemember agrees to participate in this “credit-improving program” does Harris Jewelry begin to discuss jewelry or its other products with the servicemember in an effort to max out the credit limit, the press release states.

The complaint alleges that Harris Jewelry advertises “quality” jewelry on “fair” terms, but in reality, marks up its jewelry between 600 percent and 1,000 percent over its wholesale price compared with the industry standard of 200 percent to 300 percent. It says the company then attaches an additional interest rate of 14.99 percent on the financing contract, “thereby disguising its inflated profit-taking and the true cost of the items,” according to the release.

For example, Harris Jewelry allegedly purchases the popularly sold “Mother’s Medal of Honor” for $77.70 and then sells it for $799 plus warranties and interest, according to the release. The “Forever as One Dog Tag Necklace” is allegedly purchased at $97 and sold for $699 plus warranties and interest.

Harris Jewelry’s use of a “per payday” advertised price on its merchandise further prevents the servicemember from calculating the total cost of a Harris Jewelry transaction over the life of the contract, according to the release. These unlawful business practices are alleged to have been secured through misrepresentations and omissions in advertising and during the loan’s origination.

Operation Troop Aid Inc., the original charitable partner in Operation Teddy Bear, voluntarily dissolved and was assessed a suspended penalty earlier this year in a settlement with the New York Attorney General and other states, resolving potential charges of improper charitable co-venture activities, failures to account for donations and distribution of funds, and other deceptive practices, according to the release.

The multistate investigation is being conducted by lead states New York and Tennessee, executive committee states Nevada and North Carolina, and participating states Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

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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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Newly Discovered Gemstone Is Harder Than Diamond

It’s been found on Earth for the first time.

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Shefa Yamim, a precious stone exploration company in Israel, has discovered a new mineral that is harder than diamond and which has never been found on Earth before.

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The material is called carmeltazite, and it was recently approved as a new mineral by the International Mineralogical Association Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification.

The mineral was named carmeltazite because of it its discovery on Mount Carmel and due to its major chemical components: titanium, aluminum and zirconium (“TAZ”), the company stated in a press release. Shefa Yamim trademarked the name “carmel sapphire” for the material.

The mineral “is a newly discovered type of corundum similar in appearance to the corundum, but unlike any other sapphire found in the world,” according to the company. The rough carmel sapphire is typically black, blue-to-green or orange-brown. The largest stone found is 33.3 carats.

The Vintage News reports that “it was previously believed that this type of mineral was only found on extraterrestrial material.”

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It’s harder than diamond and substantially rarer, “making its value extremely high,” according to the publication.

Avi Taub, CEO of Shefa Yamim, said in the release: “We are delighted that our Carmel Sapphire has been recognised as a host to many rare minerals. In today’s world where the prices of gems are determined predominantly by their rarity, the Carmel Sapphire is a unique discovery because it has not been found anywhere else in the world and was discovered by Shefa Yamim in the soil of the Holy Land. We believe this substantially increases the potential value of our ‘Gem Box’ of precious stones. The studies of Carmel Sapphire and its new minerals mark another milestone in the Company’s journey as we continue our progress towards trial mining in Zone 1 in 2019.”

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Founder of Luxury Jewelry Brand Leaves Company

His resignation was effective Dec. 31.

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Fawaz Gruosi, founder of Swiss luxury jewelry and watch company de Grisogono, has stepped down from his position as a board director and left the company.

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The resignation was effective Dec. 31, according to an article published by WorldTempus.

The decision had been some time in the making, and Gruosi had moving away from daily operations.

Elmar Wiederin, chairman of the de Grisogono board, was quoted saying, “As Founder of this inspirational brand twenty – five years ago, we are thankful to Fawaz Gruosi for his incredible passion and creativity.”

Wiederin continued: “Led by Céline Assimon and the skilled team in place, the Design studio and Atelier will continue to drive design and craftsmanship as before through a collective process, maintaining the traditions of daring creativity for which the brand is known.”

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Assimon was named CEO in December.

De Grisogono also recently named Keith Rosen to the role of general manager for its Americas operations, Rapaport News reports.

Read more at the WorldTempus

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Jeweler Charged with Stealing from 11 Customers

He’s been charged with felony theft.

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A Colorado jeweler is accused with stealing gold, jewelry and money from 11 of his customers.

David Aaron Kushnir, who operated D & D Jewelers in Thornton, has been charged with one count of felony theft “concerning theft of up to $100,000 from 11 named victims,” according to a press release from 17th Judicial District Attorney Dave Young.

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The charges allege that Kushnir, 37, defrauded the customers after they brought their
diamonds, watches and other jewelry to him for repair or consignment sale at his business.

He also allegedly sold fake diamonds to three victims.

Kushnir was arrested Tuesday at his Aurora home and advised of the charges Wednesday.

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The Sentinel newspaper reports that, according to an arrest affidavit, Kushnir’s alleged victims lost more than $147,000 in all.

In one case, he’s accused of removing a movement piece worth $40,000 from A Rolex watch he was asked to repair and then substituting “a Chinese piece,” according to the newspaper.

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