Schuette Charges Two for Running $9 Million Ponzi Scheme Targeting Elderly in West Michigan
March 13, 2012
Attorney General Bill Schuette and OFIR Commissioner Kevin Clinton today
announced 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. 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."
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,
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 to the scam.
The following charges have been
filed by Schuette with the 58th District Court in Grand Haven:
Today Ripley was arrested by the
Michigan State Police Fugitive Team. Arrangements are being made for VanLiere to
surrender himself to the proper authorities. It is expected that both defendants
will be arraigned on the charges at 1:00PM today in Grand Haven's 58th
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.
criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent
unless proven guilty.
Schuette encourages consumers to
exercise caution before investing their money with those who promise exorbitant
returns. Key tips to avoid falling victim to a Ponzi scheme or investment fraud
Check out your broker or adviser.
Confirm that your broker and financial adviser is registered and in good
standing. Contact the Department of Insurance and Financial Services, at
1-877-999-6442, to check out your broker or adviser.
Beware of strangers touting strange deals.
Trusting strangers is a mistake anyone can make when it comes to their
personal finances. Almost anyone can sound nice or honest on the
telephone. Say "no" to any investment professional who presses you to
make an immediate decision, giving you no opportunity to check out the
salesperson, firm and the investment opportunity itself. Beware of
anyone who suggests investing your money into something you don't
understand or who urges that you leave everything in his or her hands.
Take your time - don't be rushed into
investment decisions. Salespersons who use high-pressure tactics to
force an investor into an immediate decision are almost always pitching
frauds. They don't want you to think too carefully or find out too much
because you may figure out that it's a scam.
Keep tabs on your investments. Be
wary when a financial planner says "leave everything to me," or "the
plan is too complicated to tell you." Everything should be clear and
explainable to you.
Monitor the activity on your account.
Insist on receiving regular statements.
Ask Questions. Never be embarrassed or
apologetic about asking questions for trading activity that looks
excessive or unauthorized. It's your money, not your broker's.
Keep Diligent Records. Keep all of
your records relating to your investments, including notes of
conversations you have with brokers, salespeople, and financial
Consumers can find helpful advice
and a list of questions to consider in Attorney General Schuette's Consumer
Alert for Ponzi Schemes, available on the Schuette's website at
http://1.usa.gov/AGPonziAlert. Attorney General Schuette also offers
specialized consumer advice for seniors on how to avoid investment fraud through
the Senior Brigade website,