A San Diego jeweler and his wife have been arrested for allegedly scamming sailors and Marines into buying high-end pieces with predatory loans, and then using illegal debt collection practices to harass them for money.
Ramil Abalkhad, 54, is accused of targeting young military men at his Romano’s Jewelers stores by selling them items with lending company MBNB Financial Inc,. which is owned by his wife Melina.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on Tuesday that the loans weren’t documented by either the store or the lender and costumers were never given crucial information before agreeing to them, such as monthly payments and interest rates.
Ramil Abalkhad, 54, allegedly targeted young sailors and Marines at his Romano’s Jewelers stores (pictured). He is accused of scamming them into buying high-end pieces with predatory loans using MBNB Financial Inc,. which is owned by his wife Melina
According to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, neither Ramil (pictured) nor his wife’s lending firm kept records of the loans or informed customers of crucial information, such as monthly payments and interest rates
The couple, who are both charged with 14 counts of illegal financing and debt collection, even used a fake law firm, the Thomas Parker Collection Agency, to hound the young men when they failed to make the payments, it is claimed.
According to the September 28 criminal complaint filed by the Becerra’s office, someone posing as fake lawyer Thomas Parker would reach out to the servicemen and threaten them with legal action, including going to their superiors unless they paid what they owed.
Ramil is also charged with check fraud.
All of the charges stem from transactions that took place at Ramil’s now-closed store in Carlsbad in 2013 and 2014. A third person, MBNB employee Ramiro Salinas, was charged with conspiring to engage in illegal debt collection and arrested along with the Abalkads last week.
‘The cost of what should be a beautiful gift to someone in your family, when you go to a jewelry store, became a nightmare for service members,’ Becerra said at a news conference outside the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in Balboa Park.
Becerra’s office is accusing Ramil and Melina of using a fake law firm to contact the sailors and Marines and threaten them to inform their military superiors if they failed to pay back the loans (Becerra pictured)
Last February, Ramil (pictured) pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit identity theft, and two counts of identity theft with the intent to commit fraud
He added: ‘Our service members and military families sacrifice immensely for our country; the last thing they should have to worry about is being fleeced by local merchants.’
This isn’t the first time Ramil has faced legal trouble: Last February he and two of his employees tried to trick Marines at Camp Pendleton by having them sign documents which they said would be used to apply for credit.
They then paid a former Marine with access to military payroll to reset the victims’ PINs so they could withdraw money from their accounts, according to the San Diego Tribune.
Ramil pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit identity theft, and two counts of identity theft with the intent to commit fraud.
He had to pay $55,000 in restitution to at least 70 victims and was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service.