Charges brought in investment scam

From Attorney General’s office reports

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

“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.”

“OFIR will continue to work closely with Attorney General Schuette’s office to bring suspected financial scam artists to justice,” OFIR Commissioner Kevin Clinton said. “Michigan consumers should give us a call before entering into an investment and we will run a check on any broker, advisor or product.”

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 CD’s 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.

The following charges have been filed by Schuette with the 58th District Court in Grand Haven:

Each individual, along with API Worldwide Holdings, LLC, was charged with 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.

Ripley was arrested Tuesday by the Michigan State Police Fugitive Team. Arrangements were being 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.

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty

More information is available at http://1.usa.gov/AGPonziAlert, with general information from Senior Brigade on how to avoid investment fraud at  http://bit.ly/investmentfraud.