George French Jones, the smooth-talking con man who swindled celebrities and sports figures with lures of Miami Heat season tickets, was a fugitive for five months.
He's finally back behind bars — but not before he apparently struck again.
Jones recently used a phony Canadian passport and forged documents to land a $1 million mortgage on a beachfront Fort Lauderdale luxury house that didn't belong to him, according to a Coral Gables businessman who co-owns the property.
"I'd never met the guy before," said Benjamin Gettler, who found out about the shady mortgage last week and then discovered a Miami Herald article about Jones' history of swindles.
"It made me physically ill that this guy was allowed out and was continuing to scam people," Gettler said. "It's a sham. He should be behind bars."
Miami-Dade police late last week arrested Jones, who had skipped court and vanished in December as he awaited trial on two similar cases involving forged documents on luxury condo properties he did not own. Jones' defense lawyer appeared in Miami-Dade court Tuesday to plead not guilty on his behalf.
Meanwhile, Jones, 49, is now the target of a new criminal investigation after Gettler reported the scam to Coral Gables police.
The Miami Herald in August profiled Jones’ long career of white-collar capers.
His most notorious scam unfolded in 2013 with Jones looking for victims by browsing the Robb Report, a magazine aimed at the jet-setting elite. He offered them season tickets for the Miami Heat, which was then enjoying the championship successes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
Among his targets: former NFL players Charles Woodson and Jarvis Green. He also scammed Nick Cannon, a TV personality and former husband of singer Mariah Carey, out of $15,000, purportedly for a share of the Atlanta Hawks.
Jones wound up going to prison in Southern California for stealing $200,000 from sports agent David Meltzer, who runs a marketing firm with NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon. Jones falsely claimed he was part of a group that was putting together a deal to sell a small ownership in the franchise.
But Jones did just 16 months in prison. When he got out, Jones moved to South Beach, where detectives believe he began posing as a high-roller looking to buy luxury condos.
According to prosecutors, Jones used phony documents to try to gain ownership of a high-end South Beach condo while at the same time trying to take out a $250,000 loan against the property. He’s also facing a second criminal case, accused of impersonating a condo owner to secure a $441,000 loan against a woman’s posh Brickell home.
While awaiting trial last fall, Jones was not required to wear an electronic ankle monitor and he promptly disappeared. He apparently stayed in South Florida — police listed his latest address as the luxury SLS Brickell condos.
His latest target was a $3.5 million four-bedroom waterfront home in Fort Lauderdale in the Rio VIsta neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale. The home is owned by V&H Ventures.
Gettler, the businessman who is the company's managing partner, said he got a call from a closing agent who told him about the bogus mortgage on the home. The lender, TCM Finance, paid out the money; a representative of the company could not be reached for comment.
Gettler said he has now hired a lawyer to have the mortgage taken off his property.
"It's really a shame that he's been allowed out on bond and has had the ability to do this to other people," Gettler said. "Hopefully next time they'll learn their lesson and put him away for a good long time."