Earl Jones, a Quebec Ponzi-scheme fraudster who bilked $51.3 million from clients between 1982 and 1999, was released from prison today after serving four years of his 11-year sentence.
Jones was granted full parole yesterday after the Parole Board of Canada said Jones has a low chance of reoffending.
"The board notes that you are a first-time offender and that your crimes were not of a violent nature ... even though they did cause serious psychological harm to as much as 158 victims. You do not present a profile with a potential for violence ... The risk you present is [assessed] as low," the board's decision sheet read.
It also stated that Jones has a high potential for reintegration and has made progress in the last two years.
"You have showed an excellent motivation since 2012," the documents said of Jones, adding that he now expresses remorse and shows more sincere empathy for his victims.
"While you used to downplay your actions and exhibited self-pity at the beginning of your incarceration, the board notes recent changes following criminological and psychological counselling."
The board's conclusion is cold comfort for Joey Davis, whose mother lost about $200,000 to Earl Jones.
"I don't think a man like that —who in my mind I consider to be in the same league as (convicted former American stockbroker) Bernie Madoff — has any sense of regret or that he's done wrong," Davis said.
Frances Gordon, the widow of Jones' brother, says she was bilked of $720,000 by Jones.
She told CBC News she wonders if her brother-in-law's life will be more difficult as a free man.
"When he's in jail, he's not behind bars — he's in a minimum security prison ... He's not confined. He has a warm bed to sleep in ... He's got all the perks there, so getting out of jail, maybe his life will be more difficult," Gordon said, adding that she doesn't know if Jones will choose to live in Montreal.
"Everyone knows his face in Montreal, so if he walks in the street he's going to be recognized."
The National Parole Board imposed conditions on Jones' release. They include:
- No direct or indirect contact with the victims or any member of the victims' families.
- Not to be in a position of responsibility, paid or unpaid, for the management of finances or investments for any other individual, charity, business or institution.
- Provide documented financial information to the satisfaction of his parole supervisor.
Jones pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud in January 2010 and was sentenced the following month.
He spent four years at the Ste-Anne-des-Plaines federal detention centre.
Jones targeted senior citizens on the West Island, promising to get them big returns if they invested with him. Many lost their life savings.
More than 150 of his victims reached a $17-million out-of-court settlement with the Royal Bank of Canada in March 2012. They received their cheques in December 2013.
The plaintiffs said the West Island RBC branch could have done more to stop Jones, who regularly deposited cheques with double endorsements and forged signatures.