A man who owns two debt relief businesses, one in Maplewood and one in Jersey City, was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing nearly $300k from his clients, Attorney General Christopher Porrino announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Germaine Theodore, 37, of Maplewood, 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, authorities said.
Theodore was sentenced to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge John Zunic in Essex County on Wednesday. He pleaded guilty before Zunic on April 24 to a charge of second-degree theft by failure to make required disposition of property received in connection with TGC Movement, officials said.
Under the plea agreement, the state recommended a sentence of seven years in prison, but the judge instead imposed a sentence of five years.
The AG’s Office commenced a civil investigation, through the Division of Consumer Affairs in September 2013, after receiving complaints from numerous customers of Theodoreâ€™s purported bill payment and debt reduction service, TGC Movement, Inc., which was located on Springfield Avenue in Maplewood.
The DCA subsequently referred the matter to the Division of Criminal Justice for a criminal investigation. The Essex County Prosecutorâ€™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, officials said.
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 clientâ€™s creditors, authorities said.
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 clientsâ€™ bills.
In reality, 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 Prosecutorâ€™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 stole approximately $48,000 from clients of Save My Future and 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.
Theodore pleaded guilty on January 6 to third-degree theftÂ in Hudson County Superior Court for the scam involving Save My Future. The state will recommend a four-year prison sentence for that charge, with the two sentences to run concurrently.
Theodore is scheduled to be sentenced today by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez. He must pay also pay restitution to the clients of TGC Movement and Save My Future.
â€œInstead of delivering the debt relief that his clients desperately needed, Theodore ruthlessly compounded their problems by stealing from them,â€ said Porrino said in a statement.
â€œWeâ€™re sending Theodore to prison, where he canâ€™t swindle any more vulnerable consumers.”