Wholesale Jewelry Distributor Charged in Multi-Million Dollar Fraud Scheme
PROVIDENCE – Gerald Kent, 51, of Groton, CT, owner and operator of Kent Jewelry in Johnston, RI., made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Providence today and was ordered detained in federal custody, charged by way of a criminal complaint with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
It is alleged in court documents that Kent, through his company, which primarily sells jewelry on the internet using websites such as Groupon.com and Zulily.com, orchestrated a long running, multi-million dollar fraud scheme that defrauded a debtor finance company of more than $3.6 million dollars.
The charges are announced by Acting United States Attorney Stephen G. Dambruch; Brian Deck, Resident Agent in Charge of the Providence Office of the U.S. Secret Service; and Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Boston Division.
According to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, it is alleged that Kent submitted fraudulent invoices to a factoring (debtor finance) company based in Chicago, Ill., mostly from Groupon and Zulily, which resulted in payments to Kent of nearly $5 million dollars.
According to the affidavit, it is alleged that to execute the fraud scheme, Kent created hundreds of fraudulent invoices which were submitted to the factoring company for which he received payment; created and used a fraudulent clone of Groupon, Inc.’s website; enlisted coconspirators to pose as Groupon employees; and opened bank accounts in the names of Groupon and Zulily, Inc., in order to deceive the debtor finance company into believing it was receiving payments from these companies.
Factoring is a financial transaction and a type of debtor finance in which a business sells its accounts receivable (i.e., invoices) to a third party (called a factor) at a discount. Factoring companies work with businesses to provide working capital in order to grow their businesses without having to wait for outstanding accounts receivables to be paid.
Kent, who was arrested on Wednesday evening at Foxwoods, appeared today before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan and was ordered detained pending a detention hearing on July 26, 2017.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee H. Vilker and John P. McAdams.
The matter was investigated by agents from the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI.