Several San Diego Navy commands are taking action after an NBC 7 investigation into the sales practices of Romano’s Jewelers, which has stores in National City, Downtown San Diego and Carlsbad.
Navy Spokesman Brian O’Rourke said he sent the news story to his command master chief, who then sent it to every command master chief in the San Diego area. They, in turn, have warned all sailors under them.
“Your story shined a light on a problem we weren’t aware existed, “ said O’Rourke. “This is what we need. These kinds of stories we need to be telling our sailors about: warnings.”
After receiving numerous reports from military members nationwide that Romano’s Jewelers took advantage of them, NBC 7 Investigates looked into U.S. Marine Jacob Helmuth’s purchase of a necklace. Romano’s Jewelers calls it the “Mother’s Medal of Honor.”
The price tag of more than $2300 for the necklace and a watch raised a red flag. After sifting through purchase details, NBC 7 Investigates Candice Nguyen discovered there wasn’t much of a paper trail.
“They didn’t show me the percentage rate,” Helmuth told Nguyen. He was referring to the 29.9 percent interest rate included in his payment plan.
Consumer protection experts like attorney Tim Blood believes there are many red flags.
“Based on the documents I’ve seen, there are some very big omissions in what should be provided that just aren’t there and that’s troubling, “ said Blood.
Romano’s Jewelers said it is making changes to ensure customer satisfaction.
On Nov. 14 a lawyer with Romano’s sent a letter to NBC 7 Investigates providing more details into Helmuth’s payment plan. In the letter the lawyer said, Romano’s “would be happy to open our files to any Navy inspector to review our dealings with its personnel and confirm all the documentation and information is in order.” Click here to read more details from the letter.
Edward Olander is a personal financial counselor at Naval Base San Diego’s Fleet & Family Support Center. He says it’s crucial service members in these situations speak up.
“The District Attorney’s Office has reached out to us and the Attorney General’s Office in the State of California, saying we want to hear about this. They have acted on cases involving service members in the past…they have federal law behind them and they can actually go after [these businesses] and get money coming back to service members and fining those companies,” Olander said.
Olander said service members should also seek help and/or advice from their bases’ support centers. Counselors are able to provide anonymity.