The future father-in-law of one of the world’s most famous athletes was sentenced in Buffalo on Monday to six years in federal prison for his role in defrauding nearly $3 million from dozens of investors.
U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford also ordered Martin Rhys Jones pay nearly $2.9 million in restitution to his victims. Rhys Jones has been in custody since 2012, including nearly a year in a Spanish jail, so he likely will be released from federal prison in 2017 and deported to the United Kingdom.
“This was fraud, plain and simple. This wasn’t a market gone bad,” Wolford remarked prior to her sentencing. “People lost a lot of money. It was not conduct that was isolated in terms of its time frame.”
About 250 investors lost money in the scam, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Wolford said one of the victims suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and ended up in a nursing home after losing more than $300,000 in the scam.
Rhys Jones, wearing a gray Niagara County Jail jumpsuit and a salt-and-pepper goatee, told Wolford he accepted full responsibility for his actions.
“I deeply regret the losses investors experienced,” he said. “I full intend to address restitution once I return to the UK.”
Rhys Jones is from Wales, and his case has attracted plenty of attention in Europe because he is the father of Emma Rhys Jones, future bride of Gareth Bale, a European soccer superstar.
Bale, who also is Welsh, plays for Real Madrid and is a celebrity throughout Europe. In June, ESPN ranked Bale the 12th most famous athlete in the world, right behind former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and just ahead of PGA golfer Phil Mickelson.
Bale and Rhys Jones have been a couple for years and have two children. Bale, 26, announced their engagement on Instagram this past July.
Martin Rhys Jones, 52, admitted earlier this year to taking part in a “boiler room” scheme involving a penny stock scam that cost victims in Canada and Britain. The scheme was based in Barcelona.
The case ended up in a federal court in Buffalo because some of the money from the scheme flowed through a bank in Hamburg, and the lead defendant, Arnold Wrobel, is from the area. Wrobel also pleaded guilty to fraud and tax charges.
Rhys Jones could have received up to 10 years in federal prison, but Wolford noted his service in the British Army, his remorse for his crimes and the support of his five children in her decision to limit the sentence to six years.
The sentencing was supposed to happen last Wednesday, but Wolford postponed it until Monday to get a better understanding of whether the 10 months that Rhys Jones spent in a Spanish jail would be credited toward the six-year sentence that she levied. Wolford said she received assurances it would. But she advised Rhys Jones’ lawyer, E. Carey Cantwell, that “if something goes awry and Mr. Rhys Jones does not get that credit, come back to me.”
Rhys Jones also spent 42 months in U.S. custody. Cantwell said his client has not seen his children in four years and has yet to meet his three grandchildren. He requested that Rhys Jones be sent to a federal prison in North Carolina, where relatives who live in the state could come to visit him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell T. Ippolito argued in favor of a sentence of seven to nine years, citing Rhys Jones’ role as a ringleader of the boiler room operation and the number of people who were victimized by the scam.