De Pere man convicted of fraud asks for early release due to COVID-19 risks

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A De Pere business man convicted of defrauding investors out of millions of dollars is asking for a reduced prison sentence due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ronald Van Den Heuvel, 65, filed a handwritten letter with the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Wisconsin asking for early release.

"Mr. Van Den Heuvel asks that this court reduce his sentence to time served based upon extraordinary and compelling reasons. Mr. Van Den Heuvel is a non violent elderly offender with auto immune onset type one diabetes in failing health that makes him unusually susceptible to contact [sic] the coronavirus," reads the filing.

Van Den Heuvel says since his time in federal prison, he has lost 68 pounds, lost teeth, had a toe amputated, and lost full use of his jaw.

Van Den Heuvel says he requires "10 shots of insulin daily and an insulin pump." He claims the prison is not equipped to manage or control his diabetes and he receives two pens of insulin. He says these issues place him among the group of people at greatest risk to get COVID-19 as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Van Den Heuvel has served about one year and five months of his 7.5-year federal prison sentence. He's serving the sentence at a minimum-security federal prison camp in Duluth, Minn.

The United States Attorney's Office has asked the court to deny Van Den Heuvel's motion for compassionate release. Federal prosecutors responded by saying "Van Den Heuvel built a long track record of manipulating, exploiting, and defrauding others to fuel his high-end life."

The statement continues, "His offenses stemmed from a predatory nature, such that he would continue to pose a risk to others if released."

The Duluth prison facility has reported no cases of COVID-19 among inmates or staff, according to the federal prosecutors.

In 2018, Van Den Heuvel pleaded guilty to one charge in a 14-count indictment. As part of a plea agreement, 13 other counts were dismissed at sentencing.

The fraud happened between March 2011 and August 2015. A federal grand jury charged Van Den Heuvel with making false representations and promises in his scheme to defraud a "range of lenders and investors," including the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Van Den Heuvel told investors he planned to start an eco-friendly business called Green Box that would turn solid waste into energy.

According to the indictment, Van Den Heuvel produced false financial statements that inflated his personal wealth, giving investors the idea that he would be able to afford the equipment needed for his Green Box plan. He also misled the investors about major companies being interested in Green Box.

The indictment states that he diverted investor funds between multiple bank accounts, and used the money to pay for personal expenses and to pay off creditors.

Van Den Heuvel also convinced Wisconsin commerce officials that Green Box would create 116 new jobs at the EcoFibre facility in De Pere. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation loaned him $1,116,000 to purchase and install necessary equipment. He faked the mortgage statement on the EcoFibre building--he had never purchased it. He also received about $95,000 grant from the state for worker training.

The indictment states that Van Den Heuvel diverted most of those funds from the state.

In total, Van Den Heuvel defrauded investors and the state of $9,389,440, according to the indictment.

In a separate case, Van Den Heuvel was convicted of defrauding Horicon Bank between 2008 and 2009.

Federal prosecutors say Van Den Heuvel, with the help of a loan officer, arranged a series of loans, worth $1 million, to straw borrowers.

The straw borrowers believed Van Den Heuvel would pay back the money. These borrowers included Van Den Heuvel's nanny and his administrative assistant.

Van Den Heuvel failed to repay many of these loans, prosecutors say.