Former Michigan Lawmaker Accused Of Helping Ponzi Schemer From House Floor Pleads No Contest

“[Former State Rep. Brian] Palmer carried a cell phone provided by API and answered calls from potential investors even while on the House floor. To circumvent state security laws, Palmer assisted Ripley by providing documents to make the scheme appear legitimate and signed investment guarantees. And, with Palmer’s knowledge, Ripley used Palmer’s name and position as a public official to vouch for and sell the API scheme to potential victims.”Office of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, Dec. 20, 2013

ponziglareA onetime Michigan statehouse member who’d earlier lost $400,000 in an offering fraud and responded by becoming a cheerleader for the thief who swindled him has pleaded no contest to a criminal charge of Neglect of Duty by a Public Official.

Strange as it sounds, it is not unusual in the fraud sphere for crime victims to turn into supporters of those who ripped them off or even to follow them to another scam in the hope of making up losses. The case against former Michigan Rep. Brian Palmer demonstrates that a victim’s behavior after a scam could have criminal consequences if he or she doesn’t break ties with a scammer.

Palmer, 64, of Romeo, reasoned that he could make up his losses in the offering fraud by assisting Jeffrey Ripley, who ran API Worldwide Inc. But API Worldwide proved to be a $9 million Ponzi scheme overseen by Ripley and fellow scammer Danny Lee VanLiere, the office of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said.

“Ripley lost Palmer’s $400,000 on the investment and assured Palmer that he would get his money back if Palmer helped him with API,” prosecutors said. “Ripley gave Palmer credit for the $400,000 in API investments and Palmer cooperated with API because he believed he would receive a return on his lost funds.”

Palmer cooperated with investigators in the state probe conducted by Department of Attorney General’s Corporate Oversight Division and Public Integrity Unit and the Department of Insurance and Financial Services, Schuette’s office said.

In the API Worldwide scam, investigators said, senior citizens were lured into cashing out CDs and other investments and plowing the money into the purported “high-return” opportunity operated by Ripley, 61, of Sparta, and Danny Lee VanLiere, 62, of Grand Rapids.

From a statement by prosecutors (italics added):

Palmer met with potential investors on behalf of Ripley and API. With the knowledge that Ripley was attempting to circumvent the Securities Act, Palmer did not report the conduct to proper authorities.

Palmer carried a cell phone provided by API and answered calls from potential investors even while on the House floor. To circumvent state security laws, Palmer assisted Ripley by providing documents to make the scheme appear legitimate and signed investment guarantees. And, with Palmer’s knowledge, Ripley used Palmer’s name and position as a public official to vouch for and sell the API scheme to potential victims.

“Public officials are sworn to uphold the law,” said Schuette. “Those who break the public trust should face the consequences.”

The charge of Neglect of Duty by a Public Official to which Palmer pleaded no contest is a misdemeanor. Ingham County Judge Patrick Cherry sentenced the former legislator to “320 hours of community service that shall be served in a capacity helping seniors and the homeless,” Schuette’s office said.

A fine and costs totaling $405 also were assessed against Palmer, who conceivably could have been fined up to $1,000 and ordered to spend a year in jail.

Ripley and VanLiere pleaded no contest earlier this year to racketeering and selling unregistered securities.

Ottawa County Circuit Court Chief Judge Edward R. Post sentenced both men to serve six to 20 years in prison. Ripley was ordered to pay more than $5.3 million in restitution. VanLiere was ordered to pay more than $3 million.

The API Worldwide scam has resulted in at least two other convictions, bringing the total conviction count to five.

On Dec. 13, Schuette said Douglas Kacos, 58, of Grand Rapids, and Thomas Doctor, 53, of Grand Rapids, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor Money Laundering, which is 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.

Kent County Circuit Court Judge James R. Redford is scheduled to sentence Kacos and Doctor on Jan. 27.

Bizarre levels of detachment and reservoirs of denial may accompany fraud schemes. In the $82 “Three Hebrew Boys” scam in South Carolina in which victims’ funds were used to acquire a party bus, a jet aircraft and expensive sports tickets, for example, some victims asserted that the scammers should not be prosecuted. Meanwhile, in the $21.5 million Dennis Bolze Ponzi scheme in Tennessee, Bolze told a federal judge that he could make up the losses if permitted access to the Internet and a computerized program — and a little time.

In the $119 million AdSurfDaily Ponzi case in Florida in 2008, thousands of victims initially expressed support for now-convicted Ponzi schemer Andy Bowdoin — even after prosecutors pointed out that he’d previously been convicted of crimes tied to securities swindles with a Ponzi element in Alabama and had a business partner implicated by the SEC in three prime-bank swindles. At least one purported “opportunity” (PaperlessAccess) appears to have hired Bowdoin in 2009 to be a commercial pitchman during an active criminal investigation into ASD and while the ASD Ponzi indictment against him was pending. While awaiting his ASD-related criminal trial in 2011, Bowdoin became a pitchman for OneX, a “program” federal prosecutors later called a scam.

In June 2013, a company known as iWowWe brought in Zeek Rewards figure Dawn Wright-Olivares as its chief marketing officer after the SEC alleged in August 2012 that Zeek was a Ponzi- and pyramid scheme that had gathered hundreds of millions of dollars and after the U.S. Secret Service announced it also was investigating Zeek. Wright-Olivares was charged criminally last week for her role in Zeek, creating a PR problem for iWowWe.

 

About the Author

One Response to “Former Michigan Lawmaker Accused Of Helping Ponzi Schemer From House Floor Pleads No Contest”

  1. I’m a crook and liar, invest in Amerivest

      (Quote)

Leave a Reply