By Brecken Branstrator
Providence, R.I.--A Connecticut man has been charged with allegedly creating fake invoices through his Rhode Island jewelry business to defraud a debtor finance company of millions of dollars.

Gerald Kent, 51, of Groton, Connecticut, was arrested Wednesday and appeared Thursday before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan in Providence, where he was ordered into federal custody.

He has been charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island by criminal complaint (an allegation that still allows for the opportunity of trial) with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

According to court documents, through his company--Kent Jewelry in Johnston, R.I., which predominantly sells jewelry online through websites like Groupon and Zulily--Kent coordinated a fraud scheme that defrauded a factoring (debtor finance) company of more than $3.6 million dollars.

The Attorney’s Office said Kent was doing business with a factoring company--a third party company that offers business capital in exchange for buying unpaid invoices at a discount--based in Chicago. However Kent submitted fake invoices to this company, coming mostly from sales on Groupon and Zulily.

An affidavit supporting the criminal complaint alleges that in order to execute the fraud scheme, Kent created hundreds of fraudulent invoices to submit to the factoring company for which he received payment; created and used a fraudulent copy of Groupon’s website; enlisted accomplices to pose as Groupon employees; and opened bank accounts in the names of Groupon and Zulily to deceive the debtor finance company into believing it was receiving payments from these companies.

Kent’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Kent is scheduled for a detention hearing next Wednesday.

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