September 29, 2017
Fraud Friday — $9 Million Green Energy Fraud Catches up with Wisconsin Entrepreneur
By Bob Coleman
Editor, Fraud Friday
The concept is simple. Turn yucky, used grease from fast food restaurant fryers into renewable energy — and cash.
Implementation is the problem. Especially when the owner loots his companies to maintain the lifestyle expected of a successful entrepreneur — allegedly say the feds.
According to a guilty plea agreement from one his bankers last year, “all of the witnesses agree that Ron and Kelly Van Den Heuvel lived a high-end lifestyle including an expensive house, another residence in Florida, expensive automobiles, a live-in nanny, expansive use of credit cards and a private plane. All this despite little evidence of actual business activity by any of Ron’s business entities.”
Van Den Heuvel, 62, has left a trail of creditors holding the bag from his many companies.
(Remember, one red flag of loan fraud is a myriad of companies controlled by one person, making it impossible to figure out global cash flow.)
Unfortunately, Paul Piikkila, 52, got caught up in this mess. Formerly with Horicon Bank Paul was the banker pleading guilty last year to loan fraud. Seems he loaned more than $700,000 to Ron through a series of straw buyers and sham transactions after Horicon Bank told Paul to cut off Ron’s credit. To his peril he kept the money train running.
Now, Paul is a government witness.
Another creditor is Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. You may recall this came up during the Republican nomination to Governor Scott Walker’s embarrassment. Charges of failed government oversight and favoritism plague WEDC — “which was used an atm for Governor Walker donors.”
Back in 2011 Ron snagged a cool $1 million loan for Green Box from WEDC — which of course went right into Ron and Kelley’s bank accounts.
Fast forward to today. A federal grand jury indicted Ron on 14 new fraud and money laundering charges this week.
“The indictment alleges that Van Den Heuvel fraudulently obtained over $9 million in loans and investments for his eco-friendly “Green Box” business plan but diverted much of the funds to his own purposes.
“From 2011 through 2015, Ronald Van Den Heuvel was a businessman in the Green Bay area promoting his Green Box process. The indictment alleges that Van Den Heuvel claimed that the Green Box process could turn post-consumer waste from sources like fast food restaurants completely into usable consumer products and energy. Van Den Heuvel obtained over $9 million in loans and investments, having falsely pledged to use the funds for Green Box operations. Van Den Heuvel spent much of the funds to pay old debts and personal expenses, including a new Cadillac Escalade, pricey Green Bay Packers tickets, and court-ordered support payments to his ex-wife.
“As alleged in the indictment, Van Den Heuvel defrauded a range of victims, including individual acquaintances, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a Canadian private investment firm, and Chinese investors in the EB-5 immigrant investor program. In October 2011, the WEDC provided Green Box NA Green Bay, LLC, one of Van Den Heuvel’s companies, with a loan of $1,116,000. The funds were to be used solely to purchase certain equipment to allow for the creation of 116 jobs in a Green Box operation in De Pere, Wisconsin. Instead, Van Den Heuvel diverted large amounts of WEDC funding to his own ends and then submitted false certifications claiming to have spent the funds properly. In addition, in January 2012, the WEDC awarded Green Box NA Green Bay, LLC with a $95,500 grant to reimburse the company for the costs of training new workers. To draw the grant funds, Van Den Heuvel submitted fraudulent time records for training that never happened.
“Separately, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that it filed a civil lawsuit against Van Den Heuvel and Green Box Detroit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The SEC alleges that Van Den Heuvel violated securities laws by defrauding the Canadian investment firm and EB-5 investors.”
Ron faces the obligatory hundreds of years in jail and millions of dollars in restitution and fines.