Baytown police and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office are looking for a Baytown man who was charged with money laundering in an investigation that started with a California company reporting fraud to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.
Vanquil Marquis Jones, 26, is charged with one count of money laundering, more than $150,000 but less than $300,000.
He first came to the attention of California authorities when a business reported it had paid nearly $20,000 as a deposit for 60 tons of chicken feet that were never delivered.
Investigators determined the deposit payment was wired to a bank account at the Bank of America on Garth Road. The name on the account was “Tyson Food International,” but it had no connection to the large food company with a similar name.
A press release from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and a criminal complaint filed with the 262nd District Court in Houston proved more details.
Baytown police were then contacted, and they determined that the local “Tyson Food International” was allegedly a catering service with an address at an apartment complex on Ward Road— an address associated with Jones.
Baytown Police confirmed through bank records the defendant indeed received the $19,800 paid by the California company and withdrew all funds from the account within a week of the wire transaction.
In reviewing the account, police found payments from three additional sources: two 65-year-old women and a 67-year-old woman.
One of the 65-year-old women told police she is a cancer patient who fell in love with a man online who coerced her into depositing money into his bank account--the same bank account associated with the California case.
The other 65-year-old woman said she was contacted online about an investment.
According to the criminal complaint, she was later contacted “by phone from an ‘attorney’ in Switzerland who convinced her to wire money to the Defendant’s account in order to receive a greater payback.’”
No payback happened
The third woman declined to discuss the matter with police, according to the criminal complaint.
The three women reported a combined loss of $211,653.
Baytown police spokesman Lieutenant Steve Dorris said all of the victims lived in other states, but the suspect lived and operated in Baytown. “Due to the nature of the case rather than file several charges we filed one charge with the dollar amounts aggregated from all the victims.”
Baytown Police were able to conduct an initial interview with Jones in which he confirmed he owns/operates “Tyson Food International,” which he claims is a catering business. Jones admitted he chose the name because it sounds similar to “Tyson Foods Corporation.”
When officers attempted to interview Jones again, he stopped cooperating and could not be located.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office Financial Crimes Division, alongside the Baytown Police Department continue to investigate Jones and ask the public to contact authorities if they know his whereabouts.
“This investigation revealed how this one individual was able to wreak havoc on the lives of several people from the comfort of his home, behind a computer,” Assistant District Attorney Keith Houston said. “Financial crimes are very complex and can take months of investigation, but we will not stop until we find him and hold him accountable.”
Dorris said, “Baytown detectives, with the assistance of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, worked tirelessly on this extremely complex and far-reaching investigation over the course of several months.
“Cyber/Financial crimes such as these are becoming more and more complex every day and require a great deal of collaboration between police and prosecutors to ensure a successful investigation and prosecution.
“This case,” Dorris continued, “is yet another example of that collaboration and the Baytown Police Department’s and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office’s steadfast commitment in the relentless pursuit of justice for victims of crime.”
Houston, from the District Attorney’s Office, said, “There’s no doubt in mind that if he can continue these online scams, he absolutely will,” said Houston. “We’re hoping someone can come forward to help us locate him.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Baytown Crime Stoppers at 281-427-TIPS (8477) or Houston Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477).