Two more plea in W. Mich. Ponzi scheme

Two Grand Rapids men pleaded no contest to fourth-degree money laundering for their roles in a massive $9 million Ponzi scheme that operated under the name API Worldwide Inc.
Tribune Staff
Dec 13, 2013


Thomas Doctor, 53, and Douglas Kacos, 58, were charged in Kent County Circuit Court with the misdemeanors punishable by up to two years in prison, and/or a $10,000 fine or twice the value of the proceeds, whichever amount is greater. A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing.

Doctor and Kacos are scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 27.

The pleas follow a joint investigation by the state's Attorney General's Office and the Department of Insurance and Financial Services, which revealed API defrauded about 140 victims out of a total of $9 million. At least one of the victims is a Grand Haven-area resident.

In March, Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that two other men entered pleas in the same Ponzi scheme. Jeffrey L. Ripley, 61, of Sparta, and Danny Lee VanLiere, 62, of Grand Rapids, pleaded no contest to one count of racketeering and two counts of selling unregistered securities before Ottawa County Circuit Judge Edward Post.

Ripley and VanLiere were both sentenced June 21 to serve 6-20 years in prison. Ripley was ordered to pay $5.3 million in restitution and VanLiere was ordered to pay $3 million. 

Schuette said API Worldwide Holdings and its operators ran a Ponzi scheme from July 2006 through January 2012, selling fake securities and promising huge returns on investments. The investigation revealed that they targeted elderly investors. The victims were defrauded of amounts ranging from $3,000 to $600,000 each.

Despite knowledge that Ripley had been caught and punished for selling unregistered securities on two previous occasions, it is alleged that Doctor and Kacos allowed, aided and abetted Ripley in operating a third unregistered investment scheme by acting as a registered agent and account holder for API Worldwide. Doctor and Kacos also allegedly opened financial accounts used to receive or liquidate cash, and orchestrated and compensated third parties to wire investor funds to various foreign destinations, including Africa and the United Kingdom, in order to avoid detection by regulatory or law enforcement organizations.

Both Kacos and Doctor invested money in API Worldwide.

Authorities say Ripley and VanLiere preyed on elderly victims by convincing them to cash in certificates of deposit and other legitimate investments in order to invest the proceeds in API Worldwide. Ripley and VanLiere tracked maturation dates of CDs for some victims to persuade the victims to transfer the funds to API Worldwide immediately after the CD matured. 

The investigation revealed that although some investors did receive a return, those returns were derived from funds from other investors, which is the trademark of a Ponzi scheme, Schuette said. None of the victims received any returns on their “investments,” and some even lost their life savings to the scam.

Schuette encourages senior citizens 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 include:

— Check out your broker or adviser.
— Confirm that your broker and financial adviser is registered and in good standing.
— Contact the Bureau of Commercial Services with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs at 517-241-6345.


deuce liti

Their first clue to the scam should have been the name:

API = Another Person Impoverished


Finally, somebody at the Trib with a sense of humor, love that pic and I want that shirt.

deuce liti

Totally! We could do a whole series of things like that shirt:

1) I lost my lunch in a ponzi scheme.

2) My other cat was lost in a ponzi scheme.

3) I lost my "obamacare card" in a ponzi scheme.

4) I lost my mom in a ponzi scheme.

5) My other kidney was lost in a ponzi scheme.

And so on...


Ha! all good.

As strange as it might sound, I collect T's. I have over 500 at this point going all the way back to the early 70's with concert T's. Drives the wife nuts, but I told her she can get rid of them when I die.....they're in plastic tubs and stored away,except for the 100 or so I wear nowadays.

I sold a couple concert t's on Ebay awhile back for 50 bucks a piece, but I regretted doing it as soon as I shipped them off and vowed to never do it again. :-D

deuce liti

Not strange at all! In fact, I don't think normal exists any more. Just live with someone for a while and that'll prove it!

I bet you've seen some great concerts too! One of my fave shirts I had as a kid said, "hard work never killed anyone, but I'm not taking any chances!"



Yup, saw lots of great shows and got lots of concert T's from the 70's. Unfortunately and probably a surprise to no one that they no longer fit, which is why I sold the 2 I did.

Ironically, one of the first message T's I ever got was from my dad and it said "Question Authority". He was big on critical thinking.
I wore that T to school the next day and got sent home by the idiot principal with a note, keeping in mind I was 16 at the time. My dad came back to school with me the next day and long story short.....I wore that T to school once a week for the rest of the year.

He also went to bat for me when they tried to kick me out because my hair was starting to cover my ears....
The principal was a big, fat, hillbilly from Alabama if I remember correctly. Have no idea how he got to Michigan, but after the hair incident he never said another word to me about anything, not even "have a nice day". :-)

My dad did some pretty cool stuff for me, wish I'd have told him thanks while he was still here.

deuce liti

That's really a great story because men and fathers are always a tragic story. Men make films to explore the issue so much. Even Lord of the Rings dealt with father/son dynamic. I know men my age (nearly 40) deal with no dads or dads that thought we needed things more than them. I know a lot of fathers my age that are very aware of it and are making great strides to rectify it. Men are totally emasculated today and laughed at on television. It's amazing and wonderful to hear about a great father from your dad's generation! I'm sure you were a great dad because of it.

Two shirts I want to make for the ladies:

"Raggin' like a dragon"


"Prude and Rude"

Warning shirts.

Well, my 3 year old son just pointed to the wall and said, "daddy, watch out! It's carcharodontosaurus!" With 3 year-old articulation of course!


LOL! Got a 2 1/2 year old granddaughter living with us at the moment so I understand the articulation issue.

As to the TV personifications, it really grinds my gears the way the dads in many of the TV shows are made to act like morons. As a father myself, I don't really see the humor in making anyone look like an idiot intentionally. The product ads are even worse. Like I'd consider buying their crap after they diss my intelligence. Marketing and advertsing are where the people who can't walk and chew gum at the same time go to find employment.

Ok, I'm being told I have some painting to do.......

Tri-cities realist

You should stand up to the bully who is making you paint... Unless you want dinner tonight...


Boy, ain't that the truth!

She tried to make me go out and snowblow too, but I put my foot down and told her we weren't leaving the house today so I'll get it in the morning, after it stops snowing.......gotta maintain the balance of power.


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