The owner of a chain of now-closed jewelry stores was sentenced Thursday to three months behind bars for preying on U.S. service members, California’s attorney general announced.
Ramil “Randy” Abalkhad, the owner of Romano’s Jewelers, was sentenced to three years probation and 90 days in jail for illegal financing and debt collection practices targeting sailors and Marines in San Diego.
“(Thursday’s) sentencing should send a clear message to them and others looking to commit predatory crimes against our service members,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. “We intend to hold unscrupulous merchants and businesses fully accountable for their offenses.”
Abalkhad was also ordered to pay the victims back thousands of dollars.
According to the criminal complaint, between 2009 and 2014 Abalkhad instructed his employees to add unauthorized charges onto the store credit accounts of military customers. He also failed to fully disclose the terms of financing, such as monthly payments and interest rates.
When the service members fell behind on their payments, Romano’s Jewelers hired debt collectors who posed as attorneys and threatened the sailors and Marines with court-martial and other military disciplinary actions, according to the attorney general’s office.
Abalkhad was already sentenced on separate charges, filed by the San Diego District Attorney's office last year.
Four other people, including Abalkhad's wife, Melina, were sentenced for their participation in the scheme.