If ever there was a statement that must rankle the clients of Earl Jones, that one takes the cake. Responding to questions from the bankruptcy trustees, he says: “Its just me … my personality likes to help people … I knew most of my clients better than their kids knew them, and did more for them than their kids and their families.”

What kind of person can describe actions that destroyed people’s futures in that way when he goes on to admit that he used clients’ money for his benefit for over 25 years?

On January 15, in a Montreal courthouse, Jones pled guilty to several charges of defrauding Quebec pensioners of their life-savings in a complex Ponzi scheme. Even though it looks like he might receive an 11-year sentence, it is cold comfort to all of those people who trusted him with their money, estimated at $75 million.

One of the saddest parts of his testimony is the statement that he never used “cold calling.” In other words, he was able to get clients referring his services to their friends…and on and on it went.  Imagine how you would feel if you recommended using Earl Jones to a very close friend, only to find out years later that he was using the money to fund a very luxurious lifestyle. Terrible. That is one of the worst consequences of affinity fraud.

So the lessons learned here are clear. Don’t just take a friend’s recommendation at face value. Do your homework. See if the person is registered with the regulator. Earl Jones was not. Question guaranteed returns (8% in this case) from a special bank account. Not true. Not that any of this help Jones’ clients today, but it might prevent others from being caught in an illegal Ponzi scheme.

Click on Let’s talk about investing to read other blogs on this topic and others.

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