|TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a man who stole approximately $298,000 from customers of his two fraudulent debt relief businesses pleaded guilty today to one of the two scams. Germaine Theodore promised customers of TGC Movement in Maplewood and Save My Future in Jersey City big reductions in their monthly bills, but he instead stole their money through Ponzi schemes. He will face a recommended sentence of seven years in state prison.
Theodore, 36, of Maplewood, pleaded guilty today in Superior Court in Hudson County to the scam involving Save My Future in Jersey City. Under the plea agreement he entered with the state, he also is required to plead guilty in the TGC Movement case at a later date in Superior Court in Essex County.
Theodore pleaded guilty today to a third-degree theft charge before Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez in relation to Save My Future. Under the plea agreement, he must plead guilty in Essex County at a date to be determined to a second-degree theft charge related to TGC Movement. The plea agreement stipulates that the state will recommend that he be sentenced to seven years in state prison on the TGC Movement charge and four years in prison on the Save My Future charge, with the sentences to run concurrently. He must pay restitution of approximately $250,000 to clients of TGC Movement and approximately $48,000 to clients of Save My Future. Judge Galis-Menendez scheduled sentencing in the Hudson County case for June 23.
Deputy Attorneys General Janet Bosi, Anthony Torntore and Jacalyn Estrada are prosecuting Theodore and took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
“Instead of delivering the debt relief that his clients desperately needed, Theodore ruthlessly compounded their problems by stealing from them,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We’ve ensured that Theodore will serve a long term in prison, where he can’t swindle any more vulnerable consumers.”
“Ponzi schemes take many forms, but this one was especially egregious because it targeted victims who already were struggling financially,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “While collar criminals like Theodore harm people as well as businesses, as this case starkly illustrates, and we will continue to prosecute them aggressively.”
The Attorney General’s Office commenced a civil investigation through the Division of Consumer Affairs in September 2013 after receiving complaints from numerous customers of Theodore’s purported bill payment and debt reduction service, TGC Movement, Inc., which was located on Springfield Avenue in Maplewood. The Division of Consumer Affairs subsequently referred the matter to the Division of Criminal Justice for a criminal investigation. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Maplewood Police Department assisted the Division of Criminal Justice in the criminal investigation involving TGC Movement.
The investigation revealed that Theodore recruited customers for TGC Movement by claiming that he could reduce their monthly bills by 35 percent. He told clients that if they submitted their unpaid bills to the company, along with payment for 65 percent of the outstanding balance of those bills and certain fees, the company would remit payment in full to the client’s creditors. Theodore and other employees of the company variously represented to prospective clients that either funding from a government grant program or private investors paid the remaining 35 percent of the clients’ bills. In fact, Theodore quickly stopped paying bills for the clients and instead stole their payments. From May 2013 through his arrest on Oct. 15, 2013, he stole approximately $250,000 from over 200 clients of TGC Movement. Theodore was indicted on Feb. 11, 2015 in connection with TGC Movement.
After his initial arrest in connection with TGC Movement, Theodore posted bail and, in or about December 2013, opened Save My Future in Jersey City. In August 2014, he was re-arrested on a warrant charging him with theft related to numerous complaints from customers of Save My Future. The Division of Criminal Justice investigated those allegations with assistance from the Jersey City Police Department and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
The investigation regarding Save My Future revealed that Theodore used the new business to engage in exactly the same scam he perpetrated with TGC Movement. The new business had an office on Atlantic Street in Jersey City. He again promised clients that he could reduce their monthly bills by 35 percent. He told clients that if they paid 65 percent of their bills to Save My Future, plus certain fees, the firm would arrange for their bills to be paid in full. Once again, Theodore quickly stopped paying bills for the clients and instead stole their payments. He stole approximately $48,000 from clients of Save My Future. Theodore was indicted in that case on May 4, 2015.
Theodore operated the two companies as classic Ponzi schemes, using money from new clients to pay the first bills submitted by earlier clients.
Deputy Attorney General Bosi presented both indictments to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice. The investigation and prosecution were handled for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau by Deputy Attorneys General Bosi, Torntore and Estrada, former Deputy Attorneys General Jacqueline Weyand and Frank Brady, Detective Scott Stevens, Detective Mark Byrnes, Detective Roxanna Ordonez-Fresse, Detective James Gallo, Analyst Chrissy Garthwaite-Ratliff, Analyst Kim Geis, and Jennifer Donnell, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Monahan, who is Bureau Chief, Sgt. James Scott and retired Lt. Harry Maronpot.
Attorney General Porrino acknowledged the valuable assistance of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office; Detective Brian Glasser and other members of the Jersey City Police Department; the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office; and the Maplewood Police Department. He also thanked the Division of Consumer Affairs for its civil investigation and referral.
Jonathan L. Gordon, Esq., West Orange, N.J.
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