Earl Jones pleads guilty in $50M fraud
Victims express relief, sense of victory
Montreal financial adviser Earl Jones pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of fraud totalling roughly $50 million.
The charges cover Jones's entire 27-year career as a financial adviser on Montreal's West Island.
In return for the plea, the Crown dropped eight charges of fraud and theft that were filed against Jones this summer.
The Crown attorney and the defence have jointly recommended an 11-year sentence for Jones, 65, who was accused of running a Ponzi scheme. The judge is expected to hand down the sentence on Feb. 15.
Jones spoke briefly Friday, telling the court that he was sorry for what he had done to the victims of his crimes.
His lawyer, Jeffrey Boro, acknowledged it is too late for an apology.
"Sorry doesn't cut it and Mr. Jones knows that," Boro told Quebec court Judge Helene Morin.
Prosecutor Pierre Levesque said authorities have confirmed that Jones bilked 158 clients out of $50.3 million. Of that, Jones used $13.5 million of the money on "lavish" spending on himself and his family, Levesque said.
Boro said the case didn't go to trial because it would have been "an impossible task for me to win his case in a significant way" because Jones co-operated with investigators and didn't try to cover up his crime.
Former Jones customers — mainly pensioners — have accused him of swiping their life savings. Several victims yelled at Jones as he entered the courtroom Friday.
"He has left seniors in ruins, truly," said Ginny Nelles. Her family lost more than $1 million after investing with Jones, who was a friend of her family in Montreal.
Another of Jones's victims, Joey Davis, said he feels a sense of "relief and intense victory."
"Also a sense of accomplishment that the work that we’ve done as a committee was actually used and appreciated by the authorities," Davis said. "We are hoping to set a precedent here in Canada that criminal trials don't have to take or be drawn out for years and years."
One group of former clients said they are considering a class-action lawsuit against the banks they blame for allowing Jones to get away with fraud for almost three decades.
None of Jones's relatives was in the courtroom on Friday. Members of Jones's family have said they were also swindled.
His wife Maxine has filed for divorce and none of his relatives are speaking to him.
With files from The Canadian Press