Victims of alleged Ponzi scam testify today

A preliminary exam for two Grand Rapids-area men charged of bilking several West Michigan residents out of more than $9 million continues this afternoon with testimony from an 87-year-old Holland woman. Jeffrey Ripley, 59, of Sparta; and Danny Lee VanLiere, 60, of Grand Rapids are each charged with conducting criminal enterprise (racketeering), six counts of false pretenses $20,000 or more, and 25 counts of general violations of the state's Securities Act.
Becky Vargo
May 4, 2012


State Attorney General Bill Schuette said the men conducted the scam from July 2006 through January 2012, selling false securities through their company, API Worldwide Holdings, and promising huge returns on investments.

The men were arrested after a joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and the state Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation. They were arraigned March 13 in Ottawa County, and have remained in custody on $500,000 cash/surety bond since then.

Donna Koppenaal, 87, testified this morning in Ottawa County District Court that she had entrusted the men with more than $544,000 between 2008 and 2011. Koppenaal said she originally invested $80,000 with Ripley in 2000 in a project called Stonehenge.

Ripley returned in 2008 and suggested that a new project he had would help her recoup the money she lost back then, Koppenaal said. She gave him amounts between $5,000 and $80,000 as short-term loans, she said.

When the money was not repaid, the Holland woman said the men kept giving excuses and asking for more money to pay attorneys and taxes.

Another victim of the scam, Charles VanDyke of Rockford, testified this morning that he provided the up-front money for the organization of API. VanDyke also said he has received nothing back from his investments.

The preliminary examination is used to determine if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

See Friday's Tribune for more details on today's court hearing.


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