The victims of Quebec Ponzi scheme operator Earl Jones are finally receiving their class-action settlement cheques.
The Royal Bank reached a $17-million out-of-court settlement in March 2012 after the 158 plaintiffs claimed in court that the bank’s Beaconsfield, Que., branch was aware Jones was exploiting his personal account for fraudulent dealings.
“Those receiving cheques this holiday season can expect about 45 cents on the dollar for their losses,” reads a news release issued by the Earl Jones Victims Organizing Committee.
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Provincial police and a bankruptcy trustee estimated that Jones bilked about $51.3 million from clients between 1982 and 1999, but they were unable to determine the exact number of people — most of whom were elderly — who lost money.
Ginny Nelles launched the class action against the bank in 2010. Her family had lost its $1-million inheritance after investing it with Jones, a close family friend, and her mother almost lost her home.
She said now that the cheques are in the mail after a near five-year battle, things can finally get back to normal.
Nelles said the Royal Bank branch on the West Island could have done more to stop Jones, who regularly deposited cheques with double endorsements and forged signatures.
Officials at the bank denied any wrongdoing but agreed to the settlement.
Sue Brown was another of Jones's victims. She knows many of the victims and said many of them struggled with anxiety and sleepless nights after the fraud was brought to light four years ago.
"There were people that were moved out of their houses because they couldn't pay their taxes. It's quite a shock for people to use food banks [when they] have always been self-sufficient," she said.
A self-styled financial adviser, Jones was arrested in the summer of 2009 after his fraud was uncovered.
He is serving an 11-year sentence at the Ste-Anne-des-Plaines institution after pleading guilty to two fraud charges.