JA$59 million missing in Jamaica Ponzi case

Xinyue Angela Lin and Jeffrey A. Denner By Claudettte de la Haye Caribbean Financial News Network #mediawomanrising
Xinyue Angela Lin and Jeffrey A. Denner
By Claudettte de la Haye
Caribbean Financial News Network

BOSTON, Massachusetts – Following his indictment and arrest on charges of running a $10 million Jamaica “bridge loan” Ponzi scheme, Mark Jones, part owner and former director of a business-process outsourcing  entity in Jamaica, is reportedly negotiating with U.S. authorities, possibly in an attempted plea bargain.

Meanwhile, Caroline Hay, the attorney for the business, Global Gateway Solutions (GGS), said in a statement to the local media last week that US$485,000 (JA$59 million) paid to GGS out of the proceeds of the fraud could not be traced in the company’s books.

“When we first became aware of these allegations against Mr. Jones in March 2016, we searched for and obtained a copy of the SEC complaint against him. It was at that time that we first learned of the allegation that US$485,000 was paid to GGS…

“We then commenced a rigorous audit of our own records in an effort to try and identify this payment or any series of payments amounting to this sum. To date it has not been identified by us. We remain open to any law enforcement enquiry in this regard and will certainly work with them if called upon to do so,” Hay said.

Last month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sought and obtained an order from the District Court in Boston freezing Jones’ assets and is reportedly combing through multiple account records in his name at Wells Fargo in an attempt to locate the other beneficiaries and the fate of the money invested by victims of the scheme.

The SEC may therefore be on a collision course with GGS and other people who may, unwittingly or not, have received funds electronically or otherwise benefitted from the fraud.

Following his arrest on March 13, Jones was due to appear back in U.S. federal court on Monday of last week but, other than the fact he has apparently waived his rights to a preliminary hearing in his criminal hearing on wire fraud charges, little else was known.

SEC agent Xinyue Angela Lin in Boston and Jones’ defence attorney Jeffrey A. Denner were asked about the delay in Jones’ response to the court that was due on April 11.

Lin said, “I am not at liberty to comment about an ongoing investigation,” but went on to note that there are “several negotiations” currently taking place.

Denner said, “While I cannot comment on a client’s pending case, we will be representing Mark Jones for both the criminal and civil cases. A response will be entered shortly answering to the charges along with any necessary appearances.”

In her press statement last week, Hay, a former deputy director of public prosecutions in Jamaica and an anti-money laundering specialist, indicated she represented both GGS and Jacqueline Sutherland, its managing director and principal officer.

Hay confirmed that Jones owns 49% of GGS, incorporated in Florida, with Sutherland the 51% majority shareholder.

“Mr. Jones did not become a shareholder in GGS until sometime after JAMPRO (Jamaica Promotions Corporation) requested of Ms. Sutherland that she consider him as a potential joint venture partner / investor in the outsourcing business. That request was made of Ms Sutherland by JAMPRO in January 2010,” she said.

The alleged Ponzi schemes covered the period 2007 to 2015.

Hay confirmed that GGS was “fully and unconditionally supported” in its business as a BPO by JAMPRO and GGS was vetted as a suitable entity for business at the Montego Bay Freezone.

“In November 2009, JAMPRO invited Ms Sutherland to represent GGS at an outsourcing conference in New York where JAMPRO had a booth,” Hay explained.

“At that conference, Ms Sutherland was introduced to Mr. Mark Jones, a JAMPRO panelist at the same event. In January 2010, Jampro reached out to GGS, indicating that Mr. Jones had expressed an interest in investing in the company and asking Ms Sutherland to speak with Mr. Jones. The meeting commenced and eventually, after revealing that he had his own outsourcing business which he wished to expand, he became a shareholder in GGS,” she said.

“At no time were we aware that Mr. Jones was representing to persons that he could offer ‘bridge loan funds’ or ‘bridge financing’. We were not aware of the phrase ‘The Bridge Fund’ and we had no communications with investors or persons alleging that they were defrauded by Mr. Jones,” she emphasized.

If found guilty, Jones faces a statutory maximum penalty for wire fraud of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross loss to the victim. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.