Compass Academy founder Brooks arrested, charged with fraud

Brooks
Brooks

The founder of Compass Academy in Aiken has been arrested and charged with securities fraud, according to the S.C. Attorney General's Office.

Jonathan “Jay” Warren Brooks, 40, was charged with one count of securities fraud and placed in the Aiken County detention center.

At a hearing on Friday afternoon, Brooks' bond was set at $500,000. He remained in the detention center on Friday evening.

An arrest warrant alleges that Brooks took investment money for an entity called the “Charles Howell Trust,” but the entity was fictional. Brooks instead converted the funds for his personal use, said Mark Powell, a spokesman for the Attorney General's office.

The felony charge of securities fraud carries a possible punishment of up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000, Powell said.

The case will be prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Attorney General Creighton Waters and Assistant Attorney General Brian Petrano.

Brooks is being represented by Columbia attorney Todd Rutherford, Powell said.

Brooks, his wife and his companies, J. Brooks Financial and Brooks Real Estate Holdings, have previously been accused by the Attorney General's office of illegally selling unregistered securities to fund the establishment of a private school, Compass Academy, on Toolebeck Road.

The Brookses have also been accused by the Securities Division of the Attorney General's office of using those funds to buy groceries, their home, vacations and jewelry, rather than investing them.

Aiken resident Sandra Fadeley has filed a civil suit in Circuit Court claiming that Brooks forged her signature, badly, when he sold all of her stocks and invested the money in Compass Academy.

Jay Brooks also faces a civil suit filed by the Caniglia Management Group.

In the suit, the Group, along with Thomas and Joshua Caniglia, allege that the Brookses were in breach of contract with them. According to the suit, they were hired by Jay and Tracy Brooks to assist with selecting property for Compass Academy, contract with an architect and aid in acquiring the correct zoning permits to build and interact with utilities and to act as a liaison between “contractors, builders and architects and city, county and state officials.”

That group's lawsuit alleges they were to be paid a fee equal to 5 percent of the project's total cost, or $350,000 in contractually set increments. But, the suit alleges, they had only received $17,000 in June 2012, when they were told their “services were no longer needed because the Texas investors had refused to permit any further payments.”

A court-appointed receiver of Compass Academy's assets recently determined that it was not feasible to get the school up and running for the 2013-2014 school year due to insufficient funding and enrollment. She has been given approval to market and list some of the buildings and property at the school for sale.

A group of the school's investors plan to purchase the building, complete its construction and open it as a school.

Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.

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