Long Island-based Harris Jewelry used deceptive marketing tactics to defraud...

Long Island-based Harris Jewelry used deceptive marketing tactics to defraud military members, according to the state attorney general's office, including those serving near Fort Drum outside Watertown, shown in 2008. Credit: Bloomberg News / Michael Okoniewski

Customers who bought lifetime protection plans from a Long Island-based national jewelry retailer accused of defrauding military members have a few weeks left to file claims requesting refunds, the state attorney general’s office said.

Under an agreement announced in July to settle lawsuits filed by 18 states and the Federal Trade Commission, Ronkonkoma-based Harris Jewelry agreed to refund tens of thousands of service members for warranties and dissolve all its businesses in a deal that recovered $34.2 million — in refunds and canceled debt — for customers, State Attorney General Letitia James’ office said.

Service members and veterans who paid for lifetime protection plans have until April 15 to file claims for refunds, James' office said Wednesday in a statement with a deadline reminder. Refunds can be requested on Harris Jewelry's website, www.harrisjewelry.com.

“I encourage active-duty service members and veterans who were misled by Harris Jewelry to apply for a refund from our settlement,” James said in the statement. “This is an opportunity for service members and veterans to get the justice they deserve after being defrauded. Our military members put our protection above their own and my office will continue to protect them from predatory businesses.”

Harris Jewelry neither admitted nor denied the allegations in the settlement.

The company did not respond to Newsday's request for comment.  Harris Jewelry’s website Friday said the business would be shutting down soon and that it was no longer accepting requests for jewelry repair, battery replacement and other services covered by a protection plan.

Harris Jewelry, the trade name of Harris Originals of NY Inc. and several other affiliated corporations, operated about 30 stores near and on military bases, including Fort Drum, the largest base in New York State.

The company used deceptive marketing practices to entice service members to use its financing programs and falsely claimed that use of the programs would improve the customers’ credit scores, the attorney general’s office said.

“Instead, service members were tricked into obtaining high-interest loans on overpriced, poor-quality jewelry that saddled them with thousands of dollars of debt and worsened their credit,” the office said.

The settlement required Harris Jewelry to stop collecting $21.3 million in outstanding debt held by 13,426 service members and to provide $12.9 million in refunds to 46,204 service members who paid for lifetime warranties, the attorney general’s office said.

In New York State, 443 service members had $756,644 in debt canceled, and 1,692 were eligible to be refunded $479,514.

Harris Jewelry also was required to vacate judgments totaling $115,335.64, against 112 customers and delete any negative credit entries reported to consumer reporting agencies.

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