MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A De Pere businessman who claimed to have a process that could turn fast-food wrappers into fuel and paper products has agreed to plead guilty to one county of wire fraud after facing allegations that he defrauded the state’s economic-development agency and other investors out of more than $9 million.
The deal is part of a plea agreement Ronald H. Van Den Heuvel reached with federal prosecutors in Green Bay, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Wednesday. The case drew criticism from Democrats over the management of the state’s economic-development agency, which had written off a $1.1 million loan to Van Den Heuvel.
The loan to Van Den Heuvel was one of several deals that critics contend were botched by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., prompting a review of agency practices and a temporary suspension of the agency’s loan program.
Van Den Heuvel is expected to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud on Friday. Prosecutors plan to recommend that he be sentenced to 7½ years in prison.
That would be concurrent with a three-year prison sentence he received in January for defrauding the Horicon Bank out of more than $700,000 starting in 2008.
The remaining 13 counts against Van Den Heuvel would be dismissed.
Van Den Heuvel, owner of Green Box NA, was charged last year with 10 counts of wire fraud and four counts of money laundering.
The $1.1 million loan his company received from the WEDC was supposed to help it create 116 jobs by December 2014 as part of a project valued at more than $13 million. The project was supposed to set up a process that could be used to turn fast-food wrappers and other waste paper into synthetic fuel and paper products using a system that would produce no waste and thus pose no threat to the environment.
The $1.1 million loan from the WEDC, along with a $95,000 grant, was used in part by Van Den Heuvel to make court-ordered payments to his ex-wife. Separately, $45,000 went to settle a lawsuit filed by a former nanny.
Prosecutors allege that Van Den Heuvel had persuaded the WEDC and other investors to give him money by falsely claiming that he had entered into agreements with large companies to advance Green Box’s operations. Prosecutors also allege that he produced false financial statements that grossly inflated his personal wealth and financial situation.
According to the plea agreement reached in the case, Van Den Heuvel agreed to pay at least $9.4 million worth of restitution to lenders and investors. He also acknowledged that paying restitution won’t restrict or preclude the filing of lawsuits against him, according to the plea agreement.