Spring Lake man sentenced to prison in Herman Miller scheme

Tribune Staff • May 3, 2017 at 8:00 AM

GRAND RAPIDS — Acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced Tuesday that Spring Lake resident Jerry Lee Akers was sentenced to serve 41 months in prison for his role in defrauding furniture manufacturer Herman Miller Inc. in a vendor invoicing scheme.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney ordered Akers to serve two years of supervised release, to pay $507,309 in restitution, and forfeit an additional $507,309 to the federal government.

Akers, 54, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. He admitted conspiring with Coopersville resident Kevin Grimm to devise and execute a scheme to defraud Herman Miller between June 2010 and July 2015 using Grimm’s company, KJ Gas Transportation LLC. With Akers’ assistance on the inside of the company, Grimm submitted false and fraudulent invoices for payment for natural gas services he never provided. The fraud scheme generated $1,772,726 in payments to Grimm’s company.

Grimm was indicted by a grand jury in February for his role in the offense. On March 21, he pleaded guilty to conspiring with Akers to defraud Herman Miller in the scheme.

Grimm is scheduled to be sentenced by Maloney on July 10.

Prior to Akers’ sentencing, Birge said both men collectively returned $1,265,417 of the illegal proceeds they obtained during the fraud. Akers’ sentence reflects, in part, the government’s recommendation that he receive a reduced sentence for his substantial assistance to law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of Grimm, Birge said.

According to Akers’ LinkedIn account, he worked for Herman Miller beginning in 2001 until last year when he was terminated by the company. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association for 10 years; served as director, vice chairman and treasurer for Wolverine Power Cooperative for 11 years; and was a regional sales manager for GE before that, The Holland Sentinel previously reported.

The case was investigated by the Grand Rapids office of the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher O’Connor.

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