United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that two men have been sentenced to prison terms in connection with a scheme to defraud dozens of investors, many of them from West River South Dakota. Ron Jones, 66, of Englewood, Colorado, was sentenced on January 30, 2012, by United States District Judge Jeffrey L. Viken to eight years in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Judge Viken also sentenced Arland Clark, 64, of Spearfish, to five years in federal prison and three years of supervised release. Both men were also ordered to pay restitution to victims of over $1.8 million.
Jones previously pleaded guilty in federal district court to Conspiracy, Wire Fraud, and Money Laundering. Clark previously pleaded guilty to Conspiracy, Wire Fraud, and Tax Evasion.
The charges were the result of an investigation into a scheme beginning in the early 2000s and led investigators around the country, as well as to Germany, in their search for witnesses, victims, bank and other financial records, and proceeds of the crime. Jones enticed investors to invest over four million dollars in a computer advertising start-up company he called Plato Systems which he claimed to be developing. Working on behalf of Jones, Clark raised nearly one-and-a-half million dollars from South Dakota residents, many of whom reside in Spearfish.
Jones, however, repeatedly lied to investors about his qualifications to develop and operate such a company by making numerous false claims about his college education and attendance at Harvard and MIT. He also falsely claimed to have previously been a vice-president at IBM.
Clark had previously been part of earlier phony investment schemes perpetrated on other residents in the Midwest.
Ultimately, investigators discovered Jones paid Clark approximately $66,000 for his recruiting efforts. More significantly, Jones spent millions of dollars of investor funds on personal expenses entirely unrelated to the alleged business he was promoting. Only a fraction of investor money was spent by Jones on expenses which appeared to be related to developing Plato Systems.
No investors ever received promised stock in the Plato Systems, and only a handful received refunds of their investments. Instead, most investors have lost their entire investment, which has caused grave and sometimes permanent damage to their financial and familial condition.
"These men preyed upon unsuspecting investors by deceiving them with lies about their company and Jones' qualifications. Their greed has cost scores of victims to lose their hard-earned money and the chance to use it to enhance their lives," said U.S. Attorney Johnson. Johnson also encouraged South Dakotans to check with state and federal regulators, such as the South Dakota Department of Revenue, the Department of Labor and Regulation, Division of Securities, or the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, to determine if a person soliciting an investment, or the investment itself, is registered.
Clark's wife, Mary Clark, was also prosecuted for federal income tax evasion discovered during the course of the investigation. Judge Viken previously sentenced Mrs. Clark to two years of probation and ordered her to pay delinquent income tax in excess of $8,000.00.
U.S. Attorney Johnson commended the many agencies who worked on this investigation since 2005, including the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation division, the Department of Homeland Security, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Spearfish Police Department.
The matter was prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant United States Attorney Gregg S. Peterman.
Following imposition of sentences, Jones and Clark were immediately turned over to the custody of the United States Marshal.