No contest pleas entered in Ponzi case

Two men charged with bilking West Michigan residents out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme entered no contest pleas to three of the charges Friday morning in Ottawa County Circuit Court.
Becky Vargo
Mar 29, 2013

This was the deadline date set for any possible plea, according to Judge Ed Post. The men were actually scheduled to appear in court for a pre-trial conference.

Jeffrey Ripley, 60, of Sparta and Danny VanLiere, 61, of Grand Rapids will be sentenced June 21 on one count each of racketeering and two counts each of selling unregistered securities.

The racketeering charging carries a maximum 20-year penalty, while the securities charges carry a maximum 10-year penalty.

Six counts of false pretenses $20,000 or more and 23 counts of violations of the state’s Securities act will be dismissed at sentencing, per a plea agreement, Post said. Another part of the agreement called for the men’s minimum end of their sentences to be capped at 72 months, despite guidelines showing a range of 51-85 months for VanLiere and 57-95 months for Ripley, the judge noted.

VanLiere's attorney, Bob Hamilton, said the minimum sentence is the first chance either man could be up for parole.

“The real interesting thing about this is, if the parties, even after sentenc(ing), are able to pay restitution in full, they may file a motion for relief from judgment,” Post said.

That means that if they can pay the restitution from the assets of their company, API Worldwide Holdings, they could possibly have their conviction set aside and get out of jail.

Post said the total restitution amount was being compiled by the State Attorney General’s office and would be available at sentencing.

“I’m just glad it’s almost over,” said Grand Haven Township resident Lillian Vandenberg,  who was one of the victims.

The two men were charged only in Ottawa County at this time with the case  being based on $150,000 invested by Vandenberg and more than $500,000 invested by Donna Koppenaal of Holland.

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