The owner of a chain of jewelry stores was sentenced to 90 days in jail yesterday and ordered to make restitution to the victims of a scam perpetrated on active duty service members by creating a fake lawyer who threatened court martial as a means of getting people to pay their debts.
Ramil Abalkhad, the owner of Romano’s Jewelers, was charged last year with check fraud, conspiring to engage in unlawful debt collection, illegal financing and debt collection. The scam targeted active duty military members, encouraging them to buy jewelry on credit, through a finance company owned by Abalkhad’s wife, Melina. The defendants failed to provide necessary disclosures to customers and when they fell behind on their payments, they were threatened and harassed by debt collectors.
The collectors impersonated attorneys and threatened to contact superior officers to start disciplinary proceedings under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to the complaint.
“Today’s sentencing should send a clear message to them and others looking to commit predatory crimes against our service members,” said Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California. “We intend to hold unscrupulous merchants and businesses fully accountable for their offenses.”
Ramil Abalkhad had previously pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft after tricking Marines to sign paperwork that was used to apply for credit, and then paying a Marine with access to military payroll records to reset the victims’ PINs to withdraw money from their accounts.