HOUSTON – A 54-year-old resident of Kingwood and Panama City, Panama, has been ordered to federal prison for mail fraud and ordered to pay more than $8 million in restitution, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Steven Patrick Jones pleaded guilty May 1, 2014.
Today, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Jones a total sentence of 85 months in federal prison. He was further ordered to pay restitution to victims in the amount of $8.2 million.
Jones has admitted he and his partner - John Patrick Acord, 75, of Magnolia - formed a company called Intermodal Wealth (IW) to sell shipping containers. Dean Lester Springer Sr., 58, of Hillsboro, Oregon, worked as a salesman for IW from May to November 2012.
Intermodal offered to sell the containers to investors, then lease the containers for them. Jones promised to pay their investors 16% per year from the proceeds of the leases. However, the company had few containers and did not lease any of them. Payments were made to investors, but the funds came from subsequent investors rather than from true proceeds.
The Texas State Securities Board issued an emergency cease and desist order against IW from offering securities in Texas on July 20, 2012, claiming the company was engaged in fraud and that their acts threatened immediate and irreparable harm to the public. They also included information about their criminal histories.
As a result of the publicity following the order, Springer formed World Container (WC) on Nov. 30, 2012, offering to sell securities to investors. Specifically, he promised to use investor funds to purchase shipping containers for the investors and make money for them by leasing the containers as he had done as a salesman for IW.
He told Investors that WC was independent of IW and its associated companies. However, Springer sent the contracts, investments and money received from WC investors to Jones and IW in Panama. Springer did not purchase or lease containers for investors as promised. Many WC investors were not told IW was receiving their funds, nor about the criminal records, extensive civil judgments, tax liens or Securities and Exchange Commission injunctions against Jones and Acord. Springer also failed to reveal to investors that he received a commission from investments from Jones and Acord.
Through WC, Springer recruited new investors using a business model very similar to IW. WC received $3,927,189.28 from investors and paid $728,886.38 in returns. Investors lost $3,198,302.90 as a result of the scheme.
Intermodal received more than $5.5 million from investors throughout the United States and worldwide. Jones, his family and partners spent the majority of the investment funds they received.
Acord and Springer also pleaded guilty and were later sent to prison.
Jones has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Texas State Securities Board. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman is prosecuting the case.