MONTREAL - The Montreal financial adviser accused of bilking his mostly elderly clients out of millions stared at the courtroom floor during his arraignment Tuesday, careful not to look back into the eyes of his many so-called victims who came to watch the spectacle unfold.

Gone was the bright smile Earl Jones wore in so many photographs published over the last few weeks while his whereabouts were unknown and even Monday during his arrest at his lawyer's Old Montreal office.

He stood slouched in what appeared to be the same striped shirt he was wearing during his arrest and listened as the conditions of his release were read.

"Lastly the accused shall not manage other people's money," a Crown prosecutor read aloud to the guffaws of many in the audience.

Charged with four counts each of theft and fraud involving four victims, Jones was released from jail pending his next court date on Sept. 28.

The exact amount of the alleged fraud and theft arising from the eight charges was not mentioned and he did not enter a plea.

"Procedures require he appear within 24 hours, accusations are read and after he reserves his options for another day," defence lawyer Jeffrey Boro told reporters after the proceedings.

"For the time being he is not guilty and he's presumed innocent. Once I get all the evidence and I sit down with Mr. Jones, we will decide what we're going to do with this file."

A relative named Raymond R. Meikle posted $30,000 bail so Jones could be released. Jones also agreed to surrender his passport and tell the court where he is staying.

He also promised to remain in Quebec and not to communicate with any former clients except for family.

Flanked by at least seven courthouse constables, he was later whisked out of the building to his lawyer and a waiting vehicle.

"Obviously my client is relieved that he's being released," Boro said. "Obviously anybody who's never been to jail in their lives, it's a bit of a harrowing experience."

Boro would not say where Jones is staying because he fears for his safety.

"I know there are a lot of unhappy people out there and I know... there are a lot of desperate people out there and we all know that desperate people can do desperate things," he said.

Jones' alleged victims are planning to rally downtown Wednesday morning to demand stiffer penalties for white collar crimes.

They will also learn Wednesday whether Jones' company will be declared bankrupt. If the petition in bankruptcy is accepted, an investigation will be launched to determine whether there is any money left to distribute among his clients.

Charlie Washer, a close friend of Jones' brother Bevan who claims he lost about $125,000 after investing with Jones, said he was happy to see him looking so "terrible" in court.

"I've always seen him look so dapper and charming," he said.

"I would have felt a little better if maybe I could have been up right near him and maybe given him a little smirk or something."

Danielle Manouvrier, who tended the garden at Jones' posh Mont-Tremblant home for four years and whose mother lost money investing with Jones, said she came to the courthouse to see if Jones would look her in the eye.

"I was here today to try and see if he was able to look at anybody but I guess he was not because I was in the courtroom and he was looking to the ground," Manouvrier said.

"I guess he doesn't feel too good in his own shoes."

Manouvrier said she was glad criminal charges were finally brought against him but she knows this is just the beginning of what will likely be a long process.

Kevin Curran, whose mother also lost money after investing with Jones, said he was surprised to learn the charges relate to just four individuals though he suspects there will be more as the investigation continues.

He said he's not bothered by the fact Jones won bail.

"If he gets the sentence that I think the victims want him to have, a couple days on the street . . . doesn't matter to me," he said.

"Hopefully he'll be away for a long, long time."

The allegations against Jones have not yet been proven in court.

Earlier this month, Quebec's financial securities regulator froze Jones' accounts after a number of his clients came forward to say they had not received their regular cheques from him.

Many of the victims, who are in large part elderly widows who had become close friends with him after many years, said they invested their entire life savings with Jones.

The Autorite des marches financiers said Jones may have bilked investors out of between $30 million and $50 million.

The AMF said the fraud has the appearance of a Ponzi scheme.

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to separate investors from their own money or money paid by other investors rather than from any actual profit earned in the stock market or other investment vehicle.

Such a scheme usually offers abnormally high returns that other investments cannot guarantee to entice new investors. The scheme usually collapses because the returns require an ever-increasing flow of money from investors to keep the fraud going.

The scheme is named after Charles Ponzi, who became notorious for using the technique after emigrating from Italy to the United States in 1903. Ponzi spent some time in Montreal before applying the fraud in Boston.

In such frauds, the victims are often friends, family or members of the same organization.

Latest From ...