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Sparta man charged in $9 million Ponzi scheme

Crime targeted elderly in West Michigan

Jeff Ripley

Danny VanLiere

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and OFIR Commissioner Kevin Clinton announced Tuesday that the Attorney General’s Corporate Oversight Division has charged two West Michigan men for their alleged involvement in a $9 million Ponzi scheme, which operated under the name API Worldwide Holdings, LLC. The charges result from a joint investigation by the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR) and the Department of Attorney General, which revealed at least 140 victims who were allegedly defrauded of thousands of dollars. Some elderly victims are reported to have lost their life savings.

It is alleged that from July 2006 through January 2012, API Worldwide Holdings and its operators ran as a Ponzi scheme promising huge returns on investments.  Jeffrey L Ripley, 59, of Sparta, and Danny Lee VanLiere, 60, of Grand Rapids, allegedly defrauded at least 140 victims of approximately $9 million by selling fake securities.  The two men allegedly promised high returns on money invested, but never delivered on their promises to victims. Investigation revealed that victims were allegedly defrauded of amounts ranging from $3,000 to $600,000 each.

Schuette alleges that Ripley and VanLiere targeted elderly investors with their scam. Investigation revealed they allegedly preyed on elderly victims by convincing them to cash in certificates of deposit (CDs) and other legitimate investments in order to invest the proceeds in API Worldwide. It is alleged Ripley and VanLiere would track maturation dates of CDs for each victim, so they could make contact and persuade the victims to transfer the funds to API Worldwide immediately after the CD matured.  None of the victims received any returns on their “investments,” and some even lost their life savings to the scam.

Both Ripley and VanLiere are each facing charges in the 58th District Court in Grand Haven of One count of Conducting Criminal Enterprises (Racketeering), a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine; Six counts of False Pretenses $20,000 or more, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine; and, 25 Counts of Securities Act General Violations, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

API Worldwide Holdings, LLC is facing the same charges.

Ripley was arrested by the Michigan State Police Fugitive Team and arrangements were made for VanLiere to surrender himself to the proper authorities.

Schuette asks any citizens who believe they may be a victim of the alleged API Worldwide investment scam to contact the Attorney General’s Corporate Oversight Division at (517) 373-1160.

“Financial scams devastate the lives of citizens who worked so hard to provide for their families,” said Schuette.  “Crimes against the elderly are on the rise, and those who target Michigan seniors will face the toughest penalties under the law.”

 

 

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