Maplewood businessman sentenced to five years in prison

TRENTON, NJ — Attorney Gen. Christopher S. Porrino announced that a man who stole approximately $298,000 from customers of his two debt relief businesses was sentenced to prison on July 19. 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.

Theodore, 37, of Maplewood was sentenced to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge John Zunic in Essex County. Theodore 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. Under the plea agreement, the state recommended a sentence of seven years in prison, but the judge imposed a sentence of five years.

Theodore pleaded guilty on Jan. 6 in Superior Court in Hudson County to third-degree theft in 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 on Friday, July 21, in Hudson County by Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez. He must pay restitution to the clients of TGC Movement and Save My Future.

“Instead of delivering the debt relief that his clients desperately needed, Theodore ruthlessly compounded their problems by stealing from them,” Porrino said in a press release. “We’re sending Theodore to 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,” Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig said in the release. “White 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 more than 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 rearrested 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. 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.