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Van Den Heuvel pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud

Ron Van Den Heuvel (WLUK file image)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) – A De Pere businessman pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, while insisting he didn’t intend to commit a crime.

Ron Van Den Heuvel, 63, entered the plea in federal court, with prosecutors agreeing to dismiss 18 other counts. Sentencing is set for Jan. 5.

Meanwhile, Van Den Heuvel also entered a not guilty plea on 14 new charges – 10 counts of wire fraud and four counts of unlawful financial transactions – that prosecutors filed last month. No trial date was set in that case.

In the original criminal case, Van Den Heuvel, his wife, Kelly Van Den Heuvel, and Paul Piikkila were charged with fraudulently obtaining loans from Horicon Bank, where Piikkila worked.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the charges against Kelly Van Den Heuvel. Piikkila was convicted previously and is awaiting sentencing.

Ron Van Den Heuvel faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. In court Tuesday, prosecutors and Van Den Heuvel’s attorney could not agree on what the appropriate sentencing range should be, so that will be argued before Judge William Griesbach at sentencing. Van Den Heuvel also agreed to pay restitution of $316,445.79.

At several points of the hearing, while Judge Griesbach was questioning Van Den Heuvel if he understood the proceedings and rights he would be giving up with a guilty plea, Van Den Heuvel made a point of telling the court he didn’t intend to commit a crime.

“I understand while intent is not required, there was none,” Van Den Heuvel said at one point, and “I also understand there was no intent” at another.

Judge Griesbach clarified with Van Den Heuvel that the elements of the conspiracy count include that he knowingly entered into the conspiracy, even if continues to disagree with parts of the government’s case and its characterization of the evidence. Griesbach then accepted Van Den Heuvel’s guilty plea.

As for the newest case, prosecutors allege Van Den Heuvel raised more than $9 million from investors, including the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., for his company, Green Box, but used some of the money on personal items, including a car and Packers tickets. If convicted of all 14 counts, he faces up 240 years in prison and more than $2.5 million in fines.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger said prosecutors have more than 700,000 pages of evidence to turn over to the defense in the case, so no trial date was set. Instead, the parties return to court Dec. 13 for a status conference.

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