Pointe Claire financier Earl Jones is still missing, along with between $50-$100 million of his investors' money. Chronicle, file photo
It was with a weary sense that things were not about to improve immediately that about 70 victims of an apparent Ponzi scheme by Pointe-Claire based financier Earl Jones filled up at a closed-doors meeting organized by local assistance organizations at the Pointe Claire Holiday Inn last Friday. "I showed up to have an update of the situation," said Alfred, Ontario resident Denise Octeau-Tesher, "and to re-assure the people that are in the same situation, or even worse than us, that we're there with them." Jones, who has been missing since the beginning of the month, has disappeared along with what some suspect as $50 to $100 million of his investors' money, leaving many seniors strapped for cash as they attempt to figure out what to do now that retirement savings are gone. "I don't know if it's hit yet," said Kent Hill, who lost $100,000 invested with Jones, as he sat down in the empty meeting hall after the two-hour information session, his hands shaking as he reminisced having personally known Jones since he was eight years old. "We grew up together in Pointe Claire," he told The Chronicle. For now, it is unclear whether any among those who invested with Jone's company, the Earl Jones and Bertram Earl Jones Corporation, will have the chance to recover any of it. "At the present time I can't really tell you if IÕm optimistic or pessimistic, we just don't have the information," said Neil Stein, an attorney at law firm Stein and Stein, to a group of reporters outside the meeting hall. Stein has agreed to represent some of Jones' former clients pro-bono in a lawsuit to bring about the bankruptcy of the financier's company. Though not all of Jones' clients seem to have lost equal amounts of money, all had something in common, an implicit trust in the man who would end up dropping out of sight with their cash. "After 20 years of knowing someone, and the employees in his office, and everybody, you trust them" said Octeau-Tesher. "If you speak to a lot of people here, he was like family," said her husband Stan Tesher. Dollard des Ormeaux resident Heather Lague said she considered herself lucky in comparison to some other horror stories she has heard. "I lost $40,000," she said. "Forty-thousand is a lot of money to me but it's not the end of the world," she added. Lague said it could have been a lot worse as Jones nearly persuaded her to hand him over her Royal Bank of Canada account. "The broker from RBC called, and after great difficulty, talked me out of it," she said. All at the meeting unanimously called for justice. "He should explain the reason that this happened, and he should really suffer the consequences," said Octeau-Tesher. Her husband said authorities should be able to catch him, recalling the case of corrupt U.S. financier Bernard Madoff who was apprehended and currently serving a 150-year sentence behind bars. "My daughter she says I wouldn't hit him, but I'd probably spit in his face, which he would deserve anyway," Octeau-Tesher said. Ann Davidson, executive director for the West Island Community Resource Centre, which was one of the organizations present at the meeting, said her role at the hotel consisted of pointing out to beleaguered victims where they might be able to go for assistance. "We tried to help get them to where they might be able to go," she said.