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Buffalo sentencing delayed in $2.8 million fraud case with European soccer angle

Gareth Bale made headlines when the European soccer great announced his engagement to long-term girlfriend Emma Rhys Jones.

A month later, it’s Rhys-Jones’ father who’s making news.

Martin Rhys Jones, who like his daughter, is a native of Wales, was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in Buffalo federal court, but the sentencing was delayed.

Jones, who was in court dressed in blue prison overalls, had previously pleaded guilty to money laundering in a $2.8 million telemarketing case.

“The defendant basically found himself knee deep in a boiler room operation in Barcelona, Spain,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell T. Ippolito.

Bale was never mentioned in court Wednesday but his relationship with Rhys Jones is well-known in Britain, where Bale, also a native of Wales, is one of his sports’ most popular and highly paid players.

He is currently with Spain’s Real Madrid and the Wales national team.

Martin Rhys Jones, 52, admitted earlier this year to taking part in the “boiler room,” the name given to a penny stock scam that cost victims in Canada and Britain an estimated $2.8 million. The scheme was based in Barcelona.

Federal prosecutors estimated the number of victims at about 99 and, in court papers, indicated high-pressure sales tactics were used to sell the inflated stocks.

The case was prosecuted here because some of the money from the scheme flowed through a bank in Hamburg. The lead defendant, Arnold Wrobel, is also a native of Buffalo. He pleaded guilty to fraud and tax charges before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford in December.

It was Wolford who postponed Wednesday’s sentencing after raising questions about the year in custody Rhys Jones spent in Spain. Wolford wants assurances that he gets credit for that time and, if he doesn’t, she plans to adjust her sentence accordingly.

E. Carey Cantwell, Rhys Jones’ defense lawyer, pointed to his client’s 51 months in custody so far and said he plans to ask for a nonprison sentence.

In Britain, Rhys Jones’ case has attracted a great deal of media attention because of his daughter’s high-profile relationship with Bale.

Rhys Jones jumped bail in 2012 after his initial arrest in Spain but was later caught.

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com

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