Financier out on bail as bilked victims fume

From the Toronto Star

Jul 29, 2009 04:30 AM


MONTREAL–Earl Jones spent just one night in jail, and is today free on bail.

On the other hand, one of Jones’s clients, Christiane Jackson, feels imprisoned. She can no longer pay her mortgage, she alleges, because she put her faith in Jones.

"We have been scrambling to figure out what are we going to do next," said the 66-year-old Jackson, who needs to pack up her house, which she is being forced to sell.

Jones is accused of defrauding up to 200 investors, many of them elderly, of between $30 million and $50 million in what Quebec’s financial securities regulator believes was an intricate Ponzi scheme.

Jones appeared in a Montreal courtroom yesterday in the same shirt he had worn the day before when he was arrested at his lawyer’s office.

Shoulders slumped, head bowed, he made no eye contact with anyone in the courtroom, crowded with many of his alleged victims, and at one point shut his eyes for a lengthy period.

Jones, 67, an unregistered financial adviser who practised on Montreal’s West Island, did not enter a plea to charges of theft and fraud, but his lawyer indicated yesterday that he would plead not guilty.

The Crown asked for a number of conditions in agreeing to Jones’s release on $30,000 bail. He must not communicate with former clients, must surrender his passport and must not leave Quebec.

When the prosecutor announced that Jones must "not manage other people’s money," chuckles rang out in the courtroom. One of those who laughed was Charlie Washer, the best friend of Jones’s brother Bevan. Washer says he lost $125,000 invested with Jones.

Outside the courtroom, Jones’s lawyer Jeffrey Boro said spending Monday night in a cell at a police station in Longueuil was a "harrowing experience" for Jones.

The $30,000 cash bail deposit, Boro emphasized, was not money belonging to Jones but rather to "someone in his family."

Jones turned himself in to police during a pre-arranged meeting Monday with his lawyer present. He had disappeared from public view earlier this month after clients began demanding to know where their money was.

Since then, some clients have had to turn to charities. Others say they’re being forced out of retirement or having to sell their homes.

Many tell a similar story – that Jones came into the picture with the death of a close relative. Jones was there both to lend a sympathetic ear and to offer his services.

Jones was at the Montreal General Hospital two days before the 2002 cancer-related death of Jackson’s common-law husband, Dirk Dressel. A few months earlier, Jackson says, Dressel had named Jones as the sole executor to his estate. "I thought, if he’s naming (Jones) in such a powerful position, Jones must be okay."

When Jackson found her current Montreal condominium last year, she wanted to buy it with cash. Jones, however, told her he needed time to get her that much money and told her they’d take out a mortgage for the time being, she said.

But her $4,000 monthly cheque from Jones bounced earlier this year. And now she can’t make the payments and has no income. Her daughter, who lives in Denver, also lost her inheritance and has to quit university to find a job.

Kevin Curran, who was at the bail hearing, has a similar story.

The relationship with Jones began when Jones helped his mother settle his father’s estate in 1982. Jones also helped settle the estate of Curran’s stepfather in 2002. Jones recently convinced Curran’s mother, Karlene Kennedy, 77, to take out a larger mortgage on her house. Now the family wonders how she’ll be able to stay in it.

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