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Fruitport man's fraud trial rescheduled; deal being considered

Becky Vargo • Mar 28, 2019 at 7:00 AM

Once again, a judge has delayed the federal fraud trial of a Fruitport man.

The case against Christopher Ostrowski, along with his former business partner, Dennis Tubbergen, was set to begin April 8. On Wednesday, the trial date was changed to June 3.

Attorneys for the two men asked for a continuance of the April 8 trial, pending the acceptance of a deferred prosecution agreement. A conference on that agreement is scheduled for April 2.

The agreement, if accepted by the U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, calls for Tubbergen’s company, GTBK Inc., “to be arraigned on a felony information and to pay restitution to the U.S. in the amount of $300,000,” according to court records.

Before the court accepts the agreement, it must consider 17 victim impact statements submitted by some of the 62 victims identified in the case, the motion for continuance noted. Of those 62 victims, 30 have submitted requests for restitution, but that number is expected to increase.

Ostrowski entered a not-guilty plea when he was indicted Aug. 23, 2016.

Ostrowski and Tubbergen, who is the former CEO of GTBK Marketing of Grand Rapids, are both facing several charges related to an investment scheme designed to match donors with charities, the indictment claims. The charges include six counts of aiding and abetting fraud by wire, radio or television; and individual counts of attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, influencing a juror or witness, and false declarations before a grand jury.

GTBK operated from May 1, 2001, until at least Feb. 19, 2013. It offered a product called the Immediate Legacy Program, which was designed to help nonprofit organizations raise donations, according to the indictment. 

Ostrowski served as a traveling salesman for the firm, making presentations to financial planners and insurance agents across the country in an attempt to get them to become GTBK agents. Those interested would pay to travel to Grand Rapids for a multi-day presentation made by Tubbergen, court papers state.

Those who attended the presentations in Grand Rapids were allegedly pressured to sign up before someone else took the position for their area. Those who signed up paid between $35,000 and $50,000 for the license to sell the product and were given a money-back guarantee. They were also told they would get training, marketing and exclusive relationships with charities and other nonprofit entities, which the investors were told were already established and waiting to be contacted.

Those who purchased the program did receive some training and marketing materials, according to the indictment, but nobody received any exclusive relationship with any charity interested in using the program.

Another part of the alleged conspiracy was that when purchasers complained about the false representations of the program and tried to get their money back, they found it very difficult. Their credit cards also continued to be charged, even after they complained and left the program.

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