UPDATE 2:05 p.m.: At a court hearing this afternoon, Jones entered a plea of not guilty. She is being represented by Dickson attorney Tim Potter, who claimed she is indigent and reserved the right to ask for future assistance from the Public Defender's Office. Jones was released on her own recognizance.
Court insiders say her case will be heard in three to six months before Judge Aleta Trauger. Also noteworthy about today's court proceedings: David Jones, Donna Jones' husband, was not in attendance at the hearing.
As originally reported:
Federal agents arrested Donna Jones this morning for her involvement in a major Ponzi scheme whose victims included her own mother.
Jones, 37, was identified a year ago by The City Paper as an accomplice in a major fraud investigation. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service arrested her in Dickson on charges of conspiracy, bank fraud, money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud. Her indictment contains 17 counts.
For several years, Jones worked for Brentwood-based financial advisor Michael J. Park. Park was charged last year with and has since pleaded guilty to defrauding investors of more than $9 million via a scheme that promised rich returns but instead put money in his own pocket. He is scheduled to be sentenced to federal prison in September, after Jones goes on trial. Park is expected to testify as part of those proceedings.
“Cases like these are very large and very serious, in particular for the investors," said U.S. Attorney Ed Yarbrough. “Many investors lost their savings as part of the elaborate Ponzi scheme. In cases like these, a lot of people have invested money they can’t afford to lose, particularly in hard economic times.”
Jones is expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Juliet Griffin this afternoon. If convicted, she faces up to eight years in prison. (Read her indictment here.)
Among the investors in Park’s scam was Martha Stinson, Jones’ mother. Jones brought her mother and her late father into the fraudulent scheme, promising her ailing father that investing with her would leave her mother financially secure.
Today’s indictment alleges that, as she was making those promises, Jones was implicitly involved with Park in stealing millions from investors – later extending the fraud beyond his knowledge to take advantage of her own family.
- ALEX B FRUIN INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDACE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDANCE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; FRUIN, ALEX B TRUSTEE; FRUIN ALEX B INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC, CANDACE F TRUSTEE; STEFANSIC CANDACE F INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC CANDANCE F INHERITANCE TRUST
- ROSS, BRIDGETT D
- COOKE, ETHEN LANYARD TRUSTEE; COOKE, ETHEN LEWIS ESTATE
- JACOBS, JESSICA ALEXANDRA; JACOBS, ERIKA BESS