The US Attorney's office today announced the arrest of the owner of the former Alpha Omega Jewelers, ten years after he fled the country after banks began questioning the loans they had given him for inventory in his Boston, Cambridge, Natick and Burlington stores that officials say didn't exist.
Federal officials traced Handa to his native India. A grand jury indicted him in 2011 on 12 counts of wire fraud, but the indictment was kept secret - except for distribution to Interpol - until after his arrest yesterday.
The chain was allowed to stay open after he disappeared - and after it declared bankruptcy - to try to return as much money as possible to creditors - including the Boston Globe, to which it owed $1 million for advertising.
According to the US Attorney's office:
From May 2007 to December 2007, Alpha Omega experienced severe financial troubles, and had difficulty keeping current with loans it had with several banks. As part of the scheme to defraud Alpha Omega’s lenders and in order to obtain additional loans, Handa allegedly fabricated inventory on reports that were submitted to the banks. These reports were used by the banks to calculate the credit limit for Alpha Omega, and included inventory such as luxury watches and high-end items from Indian jewelry vendors, that Alpha Omega never in fact possessed.
On Dec. 15, 2007, Handa and his family abruptly left the United States. After discovering Handa’s departure, Alpha Omega’s lender took control of the company and conducted a detailed review of Alpha Omega’s inventory. According to the indictment, the review revealed over $7 million dollars in missing or unaccounted for inventory.
Handa is scheduled for an appearance in Los Angeles federal court on Friday, but will eventually be transported back to Boston to face the charges, which could land him in federal prison for up to 20 years.