GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) - Two West Michigan, charged with running a $9 million scheme that targeted the elderly in the area, were bound over for trial after a lengthy preliminary hearing.
Jeffrey Ripley and Danny VanLiere allegedly ran the scheme between July 2006 - January 2012 through their company, API Worldwide Holdings.
In that time period, they're accused of defrauding at least 140 people of about $9 million by selling fake securities. They promised high returns on invested money, but never delivered on their promises, the AG's office said.
Victims lost between $3,000 and $600,000 each, the Attorney General's office said at the time of their arrest.
They appeared in court Thursday in orange jail jumpsuits, unable to post bond since their arrest in March.
At their preliminary exam, Charles Van Dyke took the stand. The Rockford man testified he inherited $750,000 and then lost most of it in the alleged swindle..
He was a key witness who said Ripley told him and other investors they'd get huge returns from their loans which would be used to pay fees to get enormous amounts out of foreign bank accounts. Van Dyke said he believed "it was $470-some million."
The state contends there were no foreign back accounts, that Ripley and VanLiere - plus a few others - lived off the money investors such as Van Dyke put up.
At times, Van Dyke said, Ripley got him to pay his mortgage and other times told him to supply money supposedly to be sent through Western Union to people in Europe and Africa to help liberate those big bank accounts.
When he ran out of money in 2007, Ripley stopped talking to him, Van Dyke said.
Ripley then allegedly convinced Grand Rapids restaurant owner Doug Kacos to form and bankroll a successor company, API Worldwide Holdings. In court Thursday, Kacos waived examination as a representative of that company.
Testimony indicated Ripley used the others to keep his name off any paper work.
But Kacos said, "The credit card companies are still coming after me ... because I'm the one that filled out as the officer of the partnership."
Other testimony revealed Ripley and VanLiere paid 20 visits to Donna Koppenaal, now 87, to get her to cash in other investments to give to them. She put up $544,950.
When asked how much she was paid back, she said, "Zero."
Ripley, 59, and VanLiere, 60, each face:
- One count of conducting a criminal enterprise (racketeering)
- Six counts of False Pretenses
- 25 counts of Securities Acts, General Violations
The preliminary hearing continued into Friday, but the judge found enough evidence to send the case to trial.
Ripley, of Sparta, was the subject of a Target 8 investigation in 2009 . The investigation prompted the Attorney General's office to look into the case.
24 Hour News 8's Henry Erb is in the courtroom and will have more details later in the day.
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Two people were hurt when a car and delivery truck collided Wednesday morning.
Danyell Thomas's preliminary hearing was adjourned and Dijana Kilic waived her hearing.