U.S. feds target Jamaica Ponzi scheme


Mark Jones is seen with Jamaica’s Industry, Commerce and Investment Minister Karl Samuda.
Mark Jones is seen with Jamaica’s Industry, Commerce and Investment Minister Karl Samuda.

MIAMI, Florida – The U.S. government and the Securities Exchange Commission on March 15 indicted Mark A. Jones, former chairman and VP of Global Gateway Solutions Inc., with defrauding retirees in a “bridge loan fund” Ponzi scheme.

Jones was arrested in Miami on March 13 and on March 15 was bound over to Judge Richard Sterns at Boston where he remains in federal custody.

A civil complaint issued against Jones by SEC Enforcement Counsel Xinyue Angela Lin says that from 2007-15 Jones was operating a bridge loan fund in Jamaica with an estimated worth of USD$10 million involving 21 residents in six states in the U.S. and Washington DC.

Jones, 63, is a married man, resident in Miami with another home in Jamaica. Global Gateway Solutions Inc. (Global Gateway) owns 49% of Global Gateway Solutions Inc. (GGS), a domestic registered and U.S.-owned business at Pembrook Pines, Florida, with operating facilities in Montego Bay’s Free Zone, Jamaica.

It is unclear what role the Jamaican government – past and present – played, if any, in supporting the scheme and what relationship Jones had with Jamaican government leaders and Global Gateway Solutions management team. However, it is clear that GGS was a JAMPRO sanctioned organization which received government backing to operate in the free zone.

Court documents reveal Jones was held over for a motion with Sterns for an emergency order freezing assets and granting other equitable relief.

A forensics declaration was tendered by Sofia T. Hussain which alleged that $485,000 was given to GGS (via partner Jacqueline Sutherland), representing 5% of the $10 million. The SEC also contends that, despite the fact Jones was no longer a board member at GGS he was still retained as a consultant by GGS (by former partner Sutherland) in an effort to reduce the liability to GGS.

The motion to freeze assets was granted in an effort to locate the outstanding 95% of the funds.

In an interview with Sutherland, who is president of GGS, in which she was asked about Jones in relation to her business and his arrest, she said, “I have done nothing wrong. Mark Jones gave his written resignation in May 2015 to Global Gateway Solutions Inc. and he has absolutely nothing to do with the business.”

On March 21 in a live online discussion talk show host Cliff Hughes said Sutherland placed a notice in the Jamaica Gleaner last weekend stating, “Notice to the public. Please be advised that Mark Andess Jones is no longer affiliated to Gateway Global Solutions. He is not authorized to do any business.”

This notice was not posted in May 2015 after his resignation and only made public after the SEC sought his arrest.

The indictment says Jones told investors their money would be pooled to create a “bridge loan fund” for Jamaican businesses and that loans would pay 15-20% in interest annually.

It further states that the individuals were often retirees who risked their entire life savings in the investment fund and deposited their funds into Jones’ bank account. Jones then allegedly used the funds to pay personal expenses and paid the interest off to other investors, a classic hallmark of a Ponzi scheme.

By July 2015 Jones’ attorney informed investors he had lost their money.

The SEC treats such activities as securities fraud.

At the 2011 JAMPRO-sponsored conference in Canada, then Jamaican industry, commerce and investment minister Karl Samuda and Jones together were keen to extol Jamaica’s economic virtues regarding call centre opportunities, the Caymans Economic Zone and Blue Mountain Coffee. Samuda again holds that ministry following the recent election of the Jamaica Labour Party.

Ponzi schemes in the Caribbean have morphed into major activities, in some cases stifling the economic growth of individual nations. From 1989 to 2015, those include a scheme in Grenada in which $30 million was lost, representing 5% of GDP, another in Jamaica which lost $2 billion or 25% of GDP and one that spanned the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States that lost $1 trillion or 10% of GDP in the OECS.

By Claudette de la Haye

Caribbean Financial Network News