By Michelle Graff
Vista, Calif.--Ramil Abalkhad, the former owner of Romano’s Jewelers, was sentenced to three years of probation for his role in a scheme that defrauded Marines who shopped at his California jewelry stores.

Abalkhad pled guilty to charges of identity theft and fraud in November and was ordered to pay $55,000 in restitution to his victims.

The judge ruled that if that amount was paid in full by the date of his sentencing, Feb. 27, then he could receive probation instead of jail time.

Abalkhad did pay, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office confirmed Monday, and the judge sentenced him to three years’ probation.

Abalkhad, former Romano’s manager Carlos Torres and former employee Nellie Cha Noland first were charged in March 2015 in California Superior Court following a criminal investigation by the U.S. Marine Corps.

According to the original complaint, Abalkhad told Noland to obtain the social security numbers of active duty military personnel who were Romano’s Jewelers customers and had credit accounts with the store.

He then had Noland ask a Marine to use the social security numbers to reset the passwords of other military service members’ Defense Finance Account Service (DFAS) MyPay accounts. MyPay accounts function like bank accounts and can be directly linked to other accounts so money can be withdrawn to pay bills.

After the passwords were changed, the Romano’s employees used them to gain access to the accounts and add unauthorized charges, the complaint states.

Despite the guilty plea, Abalkhad’s attorney A. David Youssefyeh has maintained his client’s innocence, telling National Jeweler back in November that Abalkhad felt it was “his duty” to plead guilty because of his lack of supervision of his employees, not because he was personally involved in the fraud.

He also said that Abalkhad is no longer involved in the management of the Romano’s Jewelers stores that remain open.

Noland and Cha, both of whom also pled guilty in the case and testified against their former boss, are scheduled to be sentenced on March 16.

Get the Daily News >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.