Disbarred California Attorney Sentenced To Five And A Half Years In Prison For Long-Running Multi-Million-Dollar Investment Fraud Scheme
Defendant Sold Interests in Real Estate that He Did Not Own
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that DEREK JONES, a disbarred California attorney, was sentenced today to five and a half years in prison. JONES ran fraudulent investment funds, including real-estate investment firms and a venture-capital firm, through which he defrauded investors of over $8.6 million over a period of more than seven years, from at least 2012 through 2019. JONES previously pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and was sentenced today before United States District Judge Loretta A. Preska.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “When investors purchase shares in real-estate funds and other investment funds, those investors have every right to expect that the people promoting and selling those investments are treating them honestly and telling them the truth about their investments. Today, Derek Jones, a disbarred attorney, was held accountable for violating this right over an extended period of time, selling interests in real estate that he falsely claimed to own and defrauding his investors out of millions of dollars.”
According to the Indictment, statements made in court, and other publicly filed documents in this case:
From at least 2012 through at least 2019, JONES deceived his victims into investing in various companies and investment funds that he controlled, including purported real-estate development and investment firms using variations of the names “BlueRidge,” “Living City,” and “Atiswin,” and the purported venture capital firm Realize Holdings (“Realize”).
In fraudulently inducing victims to invest in his funds, JONES routinely lied to investors, including in glossy brochures and legal documents that contained misrepresentations about real estate that JONES falsely claimed was owned or otherwise controlled by BlueRidge, Living City, and Atiswin. For example, JONES falsely told investors and prospective investors that BlueRidge was developing a “resort village” on land it controlled on Semiahmoo Spit in Washington State and, separately, that BlueRidge had purchased an existing hotel in that same location, when in fact neither BlueRidge nor JONES owned or controlled any of that property. In other cases, JONES falsely claimed that his companies were under contract to purchase a ranch in Colorado and that his companies had secured long-term leases for various pieces of property slated for development, including California properties in Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, and Los Angeles. Instead of using investors’ money as he promised, JONES misappropriated investors’ money, using much of it to make Ponzi-style payments to other investors to whom he owed money in connection with earlier transactions and for personal and family expenses, including the private-school tuition of his children.
In executing his scheme, JONES also sent falsified and counterfeit documents to investors and others. For example, on repeated occasions, JONES provided doctored bank statements showing that he had millions of dollars in various corporate accounts, when in fact he had little or no money in such accounts. On other occasions, he provided counterfeit financial statements that falsely purported to be based on internal audits of companies that he controlled. He also sent investors and others falsified contracts with key pages removed, forged land-leases, and fictional statements of asset allocation. JONES also used the names of other individuals — without those individuals’ authorization or knowledge — to communicate via email with investors and thus foster the illusion that JONES’s businesses were viable operations with real employees.
In total, JONES defrauded investors out of more than $8.6 million.
During the commission of the fraud charged in this case, JONES was suspended from the practice of law by the State Bar Court of California for earlier fraudulent conduct. JONES was ultimately disbarred in July 2022 based on findings by the State Bar Court that he had intentionally misappropriated money belonging to a client in 2011 and that he had made misrepresentations to the client, to the court, and to others.
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JONES, 48, of San Marino, California, pled guilty on November 1, 2021, to a single count of wire fraud. He was sentenced today to five and a half years in prison, three years of supervised release, forfeiture of $8,679,787.66, and restitution to his victims in an amount to be determined within the next 90 days.
Mr. Williams praised the excellent work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Raymond Lewis and David M. Abramowicz are in charge of the prosecution.