Owner of Johnston jewelry company to plead guilty

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The owner of a Johnston jewelry company accused of a multi-million dollar fraud scheme has reached a plea deal with prosecutors.

Gerald Kent is expected to plead guilty to charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity in federal court next week, according to court documents. In exchange, prosecutors will recommend no more than 60 months in prison and a reduction in offense level.

Kent, the owner of Kent Jewelry in Johnston was arrested over the summer. Prosecutors claim Kent bilked debtor financing company JD Factors out of more than $3 million. According to prosecutors, Kent created hundreds of phony invoices for orders he claimed were made through e-commerce websites Groupon and Zulily. Kent then allegedly sold those fake invoices to JD Factors, in exchange for cash advances.

To keep up the facade, prosecutors said Kent created a fake Groupon website, had co-conspirators pose as Groupon employees, and even created bank accounts in Groupon and Zulily’s names.

According to prosecutors, the scheme was exposed when a person working as an IT contractor for Kent Jewelry contacted investigators in February. The person claimed Gerald Kent asked him to create the phony websites. Prosecutors said the cooperating witness also turned over an email from Kent that said “fake invoices” in the subject line.