MONTREAL - Former clients of Earl Jones, who defrauded 158 clients out of $28 million in a Ponzi scheme, will receive class-action settlement cheques this week.

The class-action suit was launched against the Royal Bank of Canada in 2010.

It alleged the bank did nothing to stop the fraud despite being aware Jones was using his personal account as a business "in trust" account.

The scheme, which Jones kept up for nearly 30 years, saw him take large lump sums of money from the victims and promise them substantial returns.

In many cases, he convinced people to take out mortgages on their homes in order to make investments.

But he never invested any of his clients' money, and instead gave them back a portion of their investment each month, as well as using the money to support his own lifestyle.

Jones had amassed between $35 million and $40 million of his victims' money. Some people withdrew their investments along the way, reducing the final amount of his fraud to $28 million.

Everything fell apart in 2009 when several accounts were frozen because cheques were bouncing, in many cases cutting off the main source of income for retirees.

Jones was arrested that July. He was convicted of two counts of fraud the following January, and is now serving an 11-year sentence.

The case was settled without going to trial in March 2012 for $17 million.

The victims were originally seeking about $40 million from RBC, but said they felt inclined to take the bank's first offer of $17 million.

The victims - whose average age is 73 -  were not inclined to wait through the duration of a possibly-lengthy trial, so they have expressed satisfaction with the relatively-speedy settlement.

“After four years, at this time of the year, it couldn’t come at a better time for people,” said Kevin Curran, a spokesman for the victims.

“They didn’t expect the cheques until March or April, so this is a surprise for everyone. I’m happy that it’s over, and I’m equally happy that hopefully this provides some degree of closure for people.”

Those receiving cheques will get about 45 cents on the dollar for their losses, an amount the victims say they are happy with.

As part of the initial deal between the victims and their lawyers, of that $17 million, lawyers are going to be getting about $5 million.

The victims say the deal is quite fair because they think they wouldn't have gotten this sum of money without the lawyers to begin with.

Victims happy to close chapter

For victims such as Sue Brown, the settlement represents an end to a bad period. Brown lost her life savings at age 65 and was forced to clean homes to get by.

“To have all of your friends and family know that you were down to your last few dollars every month was not fun,” she told CTV Montreal. “It’s quite shock for people to use food banks that had always been self-sufficient. “

Jones remains behind bars and will be eligible for parole late in 2015.

Some victims such as Ginny Nelles feel that Jones' sentence should have been more along the lines of American fraudster Bernie Madoff, who operated a similar scam.

“It’s fitting that Madoff got 150 years,” said Nelles. “I’d like to see that for Earl Jones.”

Jeffrey Boro, lawyer for Earl Jones, also expressed satisfaction with the settlement.

“I‘m very pleased especially this time of year, if the victims can get some money and make it a happier holidays I’m all for it."