MIAMI, Florida – More questions are being asked concerning the involvement and potential benefit on the part of the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) in a $10 million Ponzi scheme that is alleged to have generated profits from “bridge loans” to businesses in Jamaica.
JAMPRO is a Jamaican government agency created to be the country’s primary facilitator of foreign direct investments (FDI) into private sector projects in need of investment capital.
On March 15 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Mark Jones with operating a Ponzi scheme that claimed to generate profits from “bridge loans” to businesses in Jamaica.
Jones is a former Boston resident, who now lives in Miami and has a second home in Jamaica.
The SEC’s complaint alleges Jones violated the antifraud provisions Section 17(a) of the Securities Act and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5.
According to the SEC, Jones raised about $10 million from at least 21 investors and many of those that Jones defrauded are retirees who are now in financial straits because of their investments with him.
The SEC obtained a court order the same day freezing Jones’s assets and an order to repatriate investor funds that were moved overseas. The SEC’s complaint seeks a permanent injunction, return of allegedly ill-gotten gains with interest, and penalties.
Jones was arrested in Miami March 13 by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts filed related criminal charges against him the following day.
He was released on March 17 on a US$1 million surety bond. Magistrate Patrick White ordered the surrender of Jones’ passport and imposed a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. He is to appear in court in Boston again on April 11 to answer the charges.
According to corporate records, Jones owns 49% of Global Gateway Solutions (GGS), a company incorporated in Florida and purportedly providing outsourced technology and call-centre services in the free zone in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Jacqueline Sutherland is the 51% majority shareholder.
GGS was apparently supported in its business activities in Jamaica by JAMPRO and, in fact, the agency promoted GGS as one of its success stories and released a number of publicity photographs picturing Jones and Sutherland with its logo prominently displayed, since removed from its website.
However, a forensic report by the SEC has disclosed a payment of $485,000 to GGS from the money Jones acquired from his 21 victims, which has prompted questions with regard to the disbursement and treatment of these funds and will no doubt come under close scrutiny given the typically thorough and meticulous approach of the SEC in following the money trail.
Calls to Sutherland for further comment regarding GGS and the assets freeze were not returned.
A Ms. Wong at the JAMPRO Communications Office, when questioned as to why GGS related material has been removed from the agency’s website, stated, “From time to time videos and images are removed for various promotions.”
Meanwhile, one of those who suffered a loss, Massachusetts retiree and former investigative journalist Abby Hirsch, reached out to Caribbean News Now.
In a telephone interview, Hirsch said, “My initial investment of $900,000 was a short-term loan or so I was led to believe and that my pooled funds with other investors would gain interest. My interest payments from time to time were issued on Global Gateway Solutions letterhead,” she explained.
“I am a single woman and the loss of monies has affected me both in my business operations and personal lifestyle and I wonder if I will ever get all of my money back.”
Hirsch’s experience mirrors that of other investors in the case who told the FBI there were various “bridge loan” scenarios for which their monies would be pooled, such as entry-level home projects, condominium development projects in a desirable location in Montego Bay, finalization of a quarry loan and loans for a company that produces plastic packaging.
Some or all of these projects listed in the SEC report by Xinyue Angela Lin filed with the US District Court in Massachusetts dated March 15, 2016, appear to have been promoted by JAMPRO.
Keneshia Nooks, marketing communications manager at JAMPRO, said the agency “has absolutely no role in Mark Jones’ alleged Ponzi scheme, or knowledge of funds invested in Global Gateway Solutions”.
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