State Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a press conference in Watertown. Image: screenshot.
Jul 20, 2022 —
State Attorney General Letitia James was in Watertown today to announce a settlement with a national jewelry company accused of defrauding service members and veterans.
At a press conference, James said Harris Jewelry ripped off active duty members into their fundraising program, saying it would improve their credit. Instead, she said they ended up with high-interest loans on jewelry and overpriced, shoddy debt that worsened their credit.
“Harris Jewelry’s business practices can only be described as sheer deception and fraud,” James said. “Today they are paying the price for the harm they have caused to thousands of service members and veterans across the country.”
The agreement, which involves 18 states and the Federal Trade Commission, requires Harris Jewelry to stop collecting more than $21 million in outstanding debt and to pay nearly $12.9 million to tens of thousands of service members. Harris must also remove negative credit reports and dissolve all of its businesses.
Jon Harrington, a former financial preparedness counselor at Fort Drum, said the bad credit associated with these scams does not mean just affect the military themselves. This may affect their security clearance and their ability to perform the tasks for which they have been trained.
“And if they can’t do the job that the military trained them to do, they can’t deploy,” he continued. “If they can’t deploy, that’s one less person the unit has available on their books to go down and that affects the readiness of the unit and…one of the things more important is readiness in the military and it has a direct correlation to that.”
As part of the settlement, Jefferson County, home to Fort Drum, will receive $150,000 for peer-to-peer support services for veterans and military members.