Risk & Compliance

U.S. Man Accused of Jamaican Bridge Loan Scam

The former chairman of a Jamaican call center company allegedly operated a Ponzi scheme that raised $10 million from at least 21 investors.
Matthew HellerMarch 16, 2016

The former chairman of a Jamaican call center company has been charged with operating a $10 million Ponzi scheme in which he allegedly conned investors, including three of his own relatives, by telling them they would be funding “bridge loans” to Jamaican businesses.

Mark A. Jones told investors the loans would generate annual interest of about 15% to 20% and even met with investors in Jamaica to show them local projects that their money had purportedly funded, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in a civil complaint filed Tuesday.

The former Boston resident had apparently become involved in the Jamaican business community around 2007 and had acquired a 49% stake in call center company Global Gateway Solutions.

But according to the SEC, the documents available to date indicate that Jones did not use the investors’ money to make bridge loans. “Instead, we charge that Jones used investor money for other purposes, including making payments in Ponzi scheme fashion” to pay back other investors,” Paul G. Levenson, director of the SEC’s Boston regional office, said in a news release.

Jones, 64, was arrested Sunday in Miami on related criminal charges of wire fraud for which the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison.

The SEC said Jones, who now has homes in Miami and Jamaica, began soliciting investors for an enterprise he called “The Bridge Fund” in 2007, eventually raising about $10 million from at least 21 investors in six states and Washington, D.C.

“Many of the investors are retirees who are not sophisticated investors and who are now in financial straits after investing their savings with Jones,” the SEC alleged.

Jones assured investors their money would not be used to fund his purchase of a stake in Global Gateway or its operations, the SEC said. But after he failed to make interest payments last year, he allegedly told some investors he was trying to sell his stake so he could repay them.

In August, Jones ceased to be the chairman of Global Gateway and became a consultant of the company, a move that, the SEC said, “may have been an attempt to shield the company from his defrauded investors.”

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