A politically connected attorney and his wife were found guilty in federal court yesterday of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, conspiracy and money-laundering.
Personal injury lawyer Mikel D. Jones, 55, and his wife, Dona Nichols Jones, 54, of Boynton Beach, Fla., were convicted in connection with a scheme to defraud a New York venture capital fund that financed the operation of Jones’ Philadelphia law firm. Mikel Jones was found guilty of conspiracy, money-laundering, 14 counts of wire fraud, and 14 counts of mail fraud. His wife was convicted of conspiracy, money-laundering, and 14 counts of wire fraud.
The jury acquitted Jones of several counts of mail and wire fraud involving thefts from the City of Philadelphia. His wife was not charged in those counts.
Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for Feb. 7, 2012. Mikel Jones could be sentenced to four to five years in federal prison. His wife is looking at two to three years. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul L. Gray and Alexander T.H. Nguyen prosecuted the case.
According to investigators, Jones owned and operated a law firm at 1831 Chestnut St. In February 2006, he managed to obtain a multimillion-dollar line of credit from Stillwater, a New York-based lender. Under his agreement, Jones was required to use the money only for legitimate business expenses. Instead, investigators allege, the couple used a shell company, Strata-Tech, that they controlled, and the name of a media corporation, Comcast Spectacor, to steal the money by creating fake invoices. They created fraudulent invoices, and falsely claimed these companies had provided goods and services to Jones’ law firm.
According to investigators, the Joneses used the fraudulently taken business-loan funds to pay off personal credit card debts and to buy tickets from Comcast-Spectacor for 76er games.
The defendants were also convicted of laundering approximately $160,000 in fraudulently obtained funds through Mrs. Jones’ and their daughter’s Florida bank account. They used that money to replenish funds Jones took from his law firm’s trust account. The Joneses obtained more than $350,000 using fraudulent invoices and false representations from 2008 through 2009.
Jones, a former top aide to Congressman Alcee Hastings in Palm Beach County, initially secured $147,000 from the Philadelphia Commerical Development Corp. and a firm known as the Minority Venture Partners Ltd., or MVP. The purpose of the funding was to expand his business, which prosecutors say he agreed to do. But, the prosecution contended that once the money was in his accounts, Jones diverted the funds for his own use, transferring some of the money into a personal bank account. Federal prosecutors were unable to prove that Jones was stealing money from MVP, and the federal jury acquitted him of those charges.