WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — A Canadian man who authorities say scammed dozens of people from around the country out of millions of dollars faces as many as 20 years in prison.
His alleged scheme promised investors an impressive 20 percent return within 90 days. As is usually the case for get-rich-quick plans, it was too good to be true.
John Von Stach, 49, claimed to be an inventor seeking patents on innovations like shoes that provide power to charge a cellphone as you walk or run. He also invented what he called the next generation of snowmobiles.
But his biggest moneymaker was big contracts for solar generators. He told people his company, VSP North America, provided solar-powered generators around the world. He offered investors the chance to buy already-signed contracts at 80 percent of the cost and the investor got to pocket the remaining 20 percent, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office said.
Using ads in newspapers like The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, he drew in more than 20 investors. Some put up as much as $120,000, hoping to make $24,000 as a return.
Instead, the AG says, nobody got anything.
The VSP North America Website lists an address on Alpine Avenue NW near 4 Mile Road in Walker. It’s actually a Pak Mail outlet where he rented a mailbox.
Von Stach was caught when investors realized they weren’t getting paid and called the people who signed the contracts only to find that no such contracts existed.
According to court documents, Von Stach scammed $2 million from people all over the country and a few here in West Michigan. The alleged victims sent checks to the Alpine Avenue address or wired the money to a number of bank accounts.
He is charged with 21 criminal counts:
- One count of conducting a criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony;
- Eight counts of false pretenses of $100,000 or more, a 20-year felony;
- Two counts of false pretenses $50,000 or more but less than $100,000, a 15-year felony;
- Five counts of false pretenses $20,000 or more but less than $50,000, a 15-year felony;
- Five counts of false pretenses $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, a 5-year felony.
Von Stach was arrested as he came into America from his home in Canada in June. He was arraigned in Walker District Court and has been in the Kent County jail ever since. He will be in court Thursday, at which point he is expected to take a plea deal