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Earl Jones given 11-year prison term for fraud

As a haggard Earl Jones was led from a courtroom in Montreal to begin serving an 11-year prison sentence, some of his victims shouted at him to turn around and face them.

He never did.

Hanging his head, his hands covering his eyes as if to deflect the scathing words of the judge, the disgraced money manager sat hunched in the prisoner's box as he was described as a sociopath, a predator and a man who brought ill health and financial devastation to the scores of people who trusted him.

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Then the 67-year-old was escorted handcuffed from the court to serve time for swindling 158 customers of $50-million.

He will be eligible for parole in less than two years.

"While the victims of Earl Jones spent their life savings for a comfortable and happy retirement or to ensure that their families would not be financially burdened, the accused spent the best years of his life living luxuriously off their money," Quebec Court Judge Hélène Morin said yesterday.

Many of Mr. Jones's former clients said they considered the sentence too lenient. His own brother, who lost close to $1-million to his sibling, said he hoped Mr. Jones would spend the rest of his days in jail.

"He can rot in hell," said Bevan Jones, one of dozens of former customers who jammed the provincial courthouse in Montreal to attend the sentencing.

"He didn't get enough time [behind bars] It's a Mickey Mouse system that we have here in Canada."

Judge Morin described how the university dropout began his deceit, which lasted 27 years before collapsing last summer. He started out recruiting victims while giving advice to a group called Women in Finance, where he noted that "90 per cent of women did not know about finance, let alone will planning."

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He went on to prey on long-time friends, family and referrals, who now face depleted nest eggs. "You work all your life and do everything right, then all of a sudden you have nothing," Bevan Jones said. "Everything we saved for and worked for is ruined."

While promising investors returns as high as 12 per cent, Earl Jones never invested a penny. One of his victims was the widow of a man killed by Valery Fabrikant, who shot four colleagues at Concordia University in 1992.

Today, many former clients of Mr. Jones suffer from health problems, the judge said. All have insomnia and some have thought of suicide.

"[Mr. Jones]not only robbed the victims of their money, he robbed them of their freedom and self-esteem," the judge said. "He is responsible for irrevocable changes in all of the victims' lives and this has left all of them humiliated."

For his part, Mr. Jones is said to be suffering from heart problems and possibly skin cancer, according to his lawyer, Jeffrey Boro. He said Mr. Jones's pariah status may be his true punishment. "He has no family, no friends. He's alone. It's worse than a sentence to hang," he said.

Victims of Earl Jones are now filing a civil suit against the Royal Bank of Canada. They say in their statement of claim that a Montreal-area branch of the bank was aware of the irregularities in Mr. Jones's accounts but did nothing.

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About the Author

Ingrid Peritz has been a Montreal-based correspondent for The Globe and Mail since 1998. Her reporting on the plight of Canadians suffering from the damaging effects of the drug thalidomide helped victims obtain federal compensation and earned The Globe and Mail a National Newspaper Award, Canadian Journalism Foundation award, and the Michener Award for public service. More

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