Accused slayer Jones wowed his PNC bosses
In the 12 months prior to his arrest for murder, with a felony aggravated stalking arrest and a strangulation complaint from Fort Lauderdale looming over his head, Michael Jones wowed his bosses at PNC Wealth Management on Ocean Drive, according to employment records.
The 31-year-old Jones, who now sits in jail awaiting three trials related to threatening, strangling or killing three of his former girlfriends, even got noticed by the corporate office in Pittsburgh for bringing in more than $14 million in new accounts.
Those big wins – suggesting a complex Jekyll-and-Hyde-type duality that not only fooled but impressed some very credible people – came from seeds Jones had sewn within the beachside community, as he socialized, networked and closed deals with Vero’s professional class.
His call sheet and calendar show that Jones racked up 209 face-to-face meetings with local attorneys, accountants, estate planners and high-end clients in a six-month period.
A certain $11 million client was landed by Jones in the wake of the breakup of Rossway Moore Taylor & Swan. Another $3 million account came from a personal referral from attorney John Moore, according to an email from Moore in the case file.
Jones made presentations or had meetings with attorneys from the top local law firms, and also met with several well-known Vero Beach couples and business owners, banking-only clients of PNC, about estate planning.
Jones’ performance reviews written by PNC’s Senior Vice President and Wealth Management Director Kevin Grady were nothing short of glowing.
“He is always there to help co-workers and clients and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Michael has shown that he has strong ethics and leadership qualities. He is a big asset for PNC and I’m proud to have him on our team,” one such review by Grady concluded.
Less than two weeks prior to his arrest on June 22, a flurry of emails was going back and forth between Grady’s desk in Vero, company officials in Orlando and the Pittsburgh headquarters about how to squeeze another $28,500 out of the budget to increase Jones’ annual salary to $130,000.
The company had already paid Jones $5,000 to relocate him to Vero, and in March paid him a $12,000 incentive bonus because managers desperately wanted to keep him.
“I wanted you to know that we might be at risk in losing Michael Jones. He has been approached by numerous law firms with substantial increases in salary. We hired him at a very low salary ($101,500) and he has more than proved himself to be one of our top Senior Wealth Planners. I believe if we don’t bring his salary to $130,000, we would lose him and it would be a big loss for PNC,” Grady wrote to an upper-level PNC official on June 10, Jones’ one-year anniversary with the company.
PNC did lose Jones – not to a law firm, but to a jail cell.
On his application for criminal indigent status, along with declaring assets of $8,000 in cash and $500,000 in debts, Jones stated that he’d been informed he was no longer employed.
His final direct deposit of $2,800.76 went into his bank account on June 29 while Jones was already in custody at the Indian River County Jail.
PNC managers praised Jones, who was hired to execute a “Growing the Business Plan,” for bringing in more than $100,000 in annual fee billings in his first six months on the job, for becoming involved in nine different community organizations, and for being selected as Board Secretary of the Rotary Club of Vero Beach Oceanside.
Perhaps as the ultimate irony, he was praised for participating in the 2013 “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” event where men walk in red high-heeled pumps to raise funds for the Safe Space domestic violence shelter.
“My only concern is that Michael may find himself overextended and burn himself out,” wrote supervisor Jennifer Immel on one of Jones’ reviews.
“In the short period of time at PNC, Michael has done an outstanding job in getting known in the community,” Grady wrote on Jones’ 2013 year-end performance review. Little did anyone know then that in a few months’ time, Jones’ name would have been all over the Vero media as news broke that he was the prime suspect in the grisly strangulation murder of Sebastian nurse and Moorings resident Diana Duve.
So how and why did Jones end up in Vero?
Jones had been offered a wealth management position with Wells Fargo Private Bank in the spring of 2011 in final months of his tumultuous master’s degree program at the University of Miami School of Law, where he told classmates and school officials that he was suffering from three different kinds of cancer and had undergone numerous surgeries and procedures. He managed to finish school and started at Wells Fargo at the end of April 2011.
But after just more than a year, Jones found himself looking for a job in late October 2012 when his position with Wells Fargo on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale was “eliminated,” according to Jones’ PNC employment application and internal PNC emails.
Jones’ job was “eliminated” about three weeks after his estranged girlfriend and Wells Fargo co-worker, Abby (last name withheld) filed charges for aggravated stalking because he had threatened to kill her if she stepped out her door to celebrate with friends on her birthday, according to police reports.
Coincidentally, at about the same time, the father of yet another Jones girlfriend, Rachel (last name withheld), wrote a threatening letter to Jones’ boss at Wells Fargo detailing a September 29 attack by strangulation on his daughter.
“Upon finding out that Mr. Jones would be arrested on these charges and would likely lead to his termination from the finance business upon being judged guilty of assault, Rachel stated that Mr. Jones would find her and kill her if that happened. She declined to press charges,” the father wrote to Jack Haines of Wells Fargo.
“I am not in fear of Mr. Jones and have the background to protect my daughter from him. Would you let your child live in fear of a disgusting piece of crap like Mr. Jones? I refuse to let my daughter go through life in fear of anyone or anything,” he continued. “As you look into this matter, feel free to let Mr. Jones know that any force from him will be met with a horrific rebuttal. Thank you.”
Jones was apparently living with Rachel on and off while also dating Abby on and off. The attack on Rachel came in retribution, according to case documents, when Rachel had the nerve to inquire about why Jones was still seeing Abby.
After Wells Fargo “eliminated” his job, Jones was out of work for seven months.
But in the spring of 2013, he was interviewed by a woman at PNC Bank National Association, who described him as “very driven and confident in presentation” and said he had “tremendous personal drive.”
Employment records subpoenaed by State Attorney Bruce Colton’s investigators show that an eight-page Lexis Nexis background check performed on Jones for PNC Bank National Association revealed his 2012 Broward County arrest for felony aggravated stalking with a credible threat of death.
So how did he come to be hired for a senior position in which he would have access to Vero’s high-end clients and their personal and financial data?
Jones’ employment application did not ask about felony arrests per se, but only inquired whether or not he has been convicted of, entered a plea of no contest to or entered a pre-trial disposition program “regarding a crime involving dishonesty, breach of trust or money laundering.”
So apparently, a felony arrest for a violent crime that might have kept Jones out of the running for a minimum-wage job at a burger joint didn’t raise a red flag for a six-figure wealth management job because aggravated stalking is not an economic crime.
A June 10 email from PNC executive Stephen Pappaterra under the subject line, “High-Performing, At-Risk Employee Michael Jones” gives a further clue. “It took something like 18 months to fill the planner position in Vero Beach. We ultimately decided to hire Mike Jones instead of more experienced candidates because doing so would save significant salary dollars.
“Mike has been instrumental in retaining, expanding and deepening existing relationships. In addition, he has been wildly successful in sourcing new fee business from his external network,” the email states. “Mike’s value to Vero and Florida is extremely high.”
More than six months into his employment with PNC, Jones cut a plea deal on the stalking charge and got his five years’ probation transferred to Indian River County so he could keep his job.
PNC has repeatedly declined to comment on matters related to its hiring of Jones. “We don’t comment on personnel matters. Thanks, though, for the background and the opportunity,” spokesperson Marcey Zwiebel said last Friday.