Some Virginian servicemembers are set to get restitution and debt forgiveness after Harris Jewelry allegedly targeted the military community with deceptive and fraudulent practices. Attorney General Jason Miyares announced a multi-state settlement that will provide up to about $1 million for 3,828 Virginians who received protection plans, and $1.7 million in debt forgiveness for 1,011 Virginians.
“Harris Jewelry targeted our military community, misleading, deceiving, and defrauding thousands of active duty servicemembers through their financing program. Our servicemembers are critical to the American experiment, dedicating their lives to the protection of our freedoms and way of life. I’m grateful we were able to reach an agreement and provide relief to thousands of Virginians,” Miyares said in a Wednesday press release.
In a statement obtained by the AP, the company didn’t admit to or deny the allegations, saying it “had been an honor to enable members of the military community to recognize the important people in their lives, as well as to help them celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, and other special occasions.”
Seventeen other state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission were also involved in the settlement worth about $34.2 million for over 46,000 servicemembers and veterans, according to Miyares’ release. The release says the jeweler operated stores near and on military bases, with alleged schemes including a marketing scheme giving servicemembers teddy bears in exchange for charitable donations – although no contract existed between the jeweler and the charity.
“In addition, Harris Jewelry offered servicemembers predatory lending contracts claiming to build or improve their credit scores. The credit advanced to servicemembers was not based on a consumers’ credit score, potential income, or other legitimate factors that banks consider. Rather, it was based on a servicemember’s branch of service, the amount of time they have remaining on the term of enlistment, and the category of merchandise they purchased,” the release states.
Additionally, the release alleges the company sold product at dramatically high markups, often six or seven times wholesale cost, and added protection plans to the purchases without disclosing the plans to the purchasers.
The FTC and states allege that Harris Jewelry “Made false or unsubstantiated claims that financing jewelry purchases through the company would result in higher credit scores; Misrepresented that the protection plan was required to finance purchases; and failed to provide written disclosures and meet authorization requirements for contracts as required by law.”
Servicemembers who entered a predatory loan between January 2014 and July 2022 are eligible for restitution for the amount they paid for the protection plans, with an independent monitor overseeing the relief. Eligible people will receive an email and a letter, and they will have to claim their restitution.
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