Father of Bale's girlfriend on remand in US prison after being extradited over £3m fraud case
He may have become the world’s most expensive footballer, but Gareth Bale has by his side a devoted childhood sweetheart who shuns the high life.
Unfortunately, however, it seems her father may have rather less modest tastes.
Martin Rhys-Jones, father of Bale’s girlfriend Emma, is on remand in an American jail accused of a global financial fraud.
He was extradited to the US on charges of helping to mastermind a ‘boiler room’ scam that allegedly conned millions from unwitting investors.
If found guilty, he could face up to 30 years in prison and a fine of £160,000.
Rhys-Jones, 49, was charged alongside 11 others in a New York court with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
He is accused of running a telemarketing scam from offices in Barcelona between 2006 and 2009 that duped victims into buying expensive shares that were almost worthless.
Rhys-Jones set up business in the Spanish city – where there is a ferocious footballing rivalry with Real Madrid, which has just signed Bale for £300,000 a week – in 2005 after separating from his wife, Suzanne, in Cardiff.
The father-of-five is accused of organising a series of ‘boiler room’ scams which involved cold-calling people in the UK and Canada to sell them low-value shares for high prices.
Investigators claim Rhys-Jones got staff to generate false press releases claiming share prices were of a much higher value than they were being traded.
He is alleged to have hired six people to make the fraudulent calls, offering them free rent in Barcelona and commission for sales.
US investigators say the sales team would not tell customers that the stocks were restricted, meaning they could not be easily sold on the open market.
The indictment states that when customers were eventually sent share certificates ‘the value of the stock had dropped to nearly nothing’.
More than £3.2million was invested by unwitting customers in the scheme before the money was transferred to bank accounts in New York, Spain, the UK and Switzerland, prosecutors say.
They have accused Rhys-Jones of laundering money through an Abbey National branch in the Channel Islands, along with banks in Barcelona and Germany.
The US probe is being run by the Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service and Immigration and Customs.
Rhys-Jones was arrested by the Spanish National Police’s fugitive squad last September, but was extradited to New York only in June. He is now in a federal prison in Buffalo, New York, awaiting a trial expected to start next year.
As he would have been unable to leave Spain last year while fighting extradition to the US, it is highly likely that he is yet to meet his granddaughter, Alba Violet Bale, who is 11 months old.
Rhys-Jones posted about his business ventures and life in Barcelona on both his Twitter and Facebook social networking accounts.
It is not clear whether daughter Emma, 23, will move to Spain with Bale following his £85.3million transfer to Real Madrid. Friends say the shy family girl is close to mother Suzanne and prefers life at her £150,000 three-bedroom former council home in Cardiff.
Rhys-Jones married Suzanne in South Glamorgan, Wales, in 1988 and they went on to have five children. Suzanne now uses her maiden name of McMurray but it is not known if the pair have divorced.
Emma and Bale, who became childhood sweethearts at Whitchurch High School in Cardiff, carried out a long-distance relationship for eight years after Bale’s moves to Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur and she moved into his Essex mansion only two years ago.
The notoriously private pair have tended to eschew public appearances together in the past.
Commenting on Rhys-Jones’s case, James Spero, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Buffalo, New York, said: ‘These criminals demonstrated a callous disregard for the hard earned money of individuals who thought that they were legitimately investing in their futures. They will now have to account for their actions before a court of law.’
Speaking from her four-bedroom detached home in Cardiff last night, Rhys-Jones’s mother Grace, 71, said: ‘I’ve been told not to talk about this. I don’t know exactly where my son is at the moment.’
US Grand Jury indictment documents reveal that Rhys-Jones also used the aliases Martin Reece and John Allen while in Barcelona.
A spokesman for Bale last night said: ‘I’m aware, but what’s it got to do with us? We are not commenting.’
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