Earl Jones gets 11-year sentence for orchestrating massive fraud scheme

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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MONTREAL - Disgraced financial adviser Earl Jones received an 11-year sentence for orchestrating a massive fraud scheme Monday, and even those who once loved him were wishing a worse fate for him.
"He can rot in hell," said Bevan Jones, who came to the courthouse to watch his brother get sent away.
Victims of the Ponzi schemer had hoped to see him slapped with the maximum 14-year sentence and were dismayed by the deal reached between prosecutors and his attorneys.
He will be eligible to apply for parole after serving one-sixth of his sentence - meaning he could request to be released from prison after 22 months.
Several victims wondered how Jones, who'd masterminded a pyramid scheme over three decades, could possibly have been spared the maximum sentence allowed by the law.
"Earl Jones preyed on us in the most intimate and basic way. We trusted him, we put our trust in him," said Ginny Nelles, who saw her family's entire savings wiped out by Jones.
"Earl Jones was our friend, he was our uncle, he was somebody who was there for us. And he ended up violating me, my mother and every single member of our group."
Jones, 67, sat in the prisoner's dock with his head buried in his hands as the judge handed down the sentence.
He pleaded guilty last month to running a pyramid scheme that started in 1982 and included at least 158 victims, including several close friends and relatives.
The judge was unsparing in her remarks Monday.
"Some victims call him a liar, a demon, a parasite, a snake, a financial predator and a social sociopath, as he promised them that their money was not only to be safe with him but growing," said Quebec court Judge Helene Morin.
"He stole from both the rich and the poor with no conscience."
His criminal proceedings heard that he never invested a penny of the money he collected from his former clients.
The $50-million scam cost many people their entire life savings and none of the money has been recovered.
But Morin made a point to make sure Jones understood what his victims are not just suffering financially: she said all have suffered from insomnia and many have seen their health rapidly deteriorate.
She noted that some who took pride in never having taken medication are now on anti-depressants.
Both the Crown and defence had suggested an 11-year sentence after Jones pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud, a sentence Morin agreed with although she acknowledged the victims wanted to see Jones receive the maximum sentence.
Last fall, the Conservative government had promised to toughen minimum sentences and double the wait for parole eligibility. But its decision to prorogue Parliament has snuffed out current legislation, including the bill to toughen penalties for white-collar crime.
"That law hasn't passed yet and I'll have to wait and see what form that law takes to determine if Mr. Jones would or would not be eligible to get out at one-sixth," said Jones' lawyer, Jeffrey Boro.
Under the current law, he said, Jones will able to ask for parole after two years.
A crush of people - all victims or family members of victims - piled into the courthouse, forcing officials to take the rare step of opening up a second room for spectators.
The reaction has been most severe from many of the victims who were closest to Jones.
A niece who was also swindled blames him for the ruining the family name.
"(Jones') niece writes that people blame her own family for what her uncle has done," Morin read.
"She adds that he is a disgrace to the Jones' good name and she is relieved that her grandmother isn't alive to see this."
He's been shunned not only by his friends and relatives, but his wife Maxine has also filed for divorce.
Both Jones and his financial-services company have been declared bankrupt.
Jones once lived in the lap of luxury, with several high-end homes in trendy locales. He was a pillar of the community, active in the church, local charities and amateur sports.
But in the months leading up to his guilty plea, he lived anonymously in a suburban rooming house and was penniless apart from a government pension.
The provincial police and a bankruptcy trustee spent months going over the books and were able to agree on a conservative estimate of about $51.3 million taken between 1982 and 2009.
But it's unclear just how many people were impacted over the decades.
The victims announced earlier this month that they will seek the right to sue a branch of the Royal Bank of Canada for allegedly allowing Jones to carry out his crimes by turning a blind eye to his dubious accounting and business practices.
None of the claims against the Royal Bank have been proven in court and a judge must still authorize the request for the suit.
Jones' brother said he never wanted to speak to him again and would never forgive him.
"None of us will ever be the same," said Bevan Jones who, along with his wife Frances Gordon, was fleeced out of $1 million.
"You work all your life, you sell your printing company and now we live on our government pension," Bevan Jones said.
"Everything we saved up for and worked for is gone, ruined, by this little ... I can't say the word."

Organizations: Royal Bank of Canada

Geographic location: MONTREAL

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