Tag Archives: loans

Wisconsin businessman who landed state loans indicted

A federal grand jury this week indicted a Wisconsin businessman on charges that he conspired to fraudulently obtain bank loans.

Ronald Van Den Heuvel, 62, of De Pere was indicted Tuesday along with his 52-year-old wife and a bank employee, U.S. Attorney for Eastern Wisconsin Gregory J. Haanstad said.

The indictment alleges Van Den Heuvel; his wife, Kelly, who had her own corporation; and Paul Piikkila, 53, of Appleton, a loan officer at Horicon Bank, conspired to defraud the bank through loans made in 2008 and 2009. Prosecutors allege the loans were used to pay Van Den Heuvel’s employees and other debts, and the bank’s losses totaled more than $700,000.

Van Den Heuvel, founder of Green Box, a green energy company in Green Bay, is a longtime contributor to state politicians. The alleged bank fraud is separate from business deals in which Wisconsin’s flagship jobs agency — the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. — gave his businesses $1.2 million in loans but was later criticized for not looking closely enough into the company. Search warrants showed Van Den Heuvel was suspected of misrepresenting his business in that case, something he has denied.

According to the indictment, Piikkila approved more than $1 million in loans to corporations and individuals that were fronts for the Van Den Heuvels, despite Horicon Bank telling Piikkila not to loan money to Van Den Heuvel. Court documents allege the loans were not used for their intended purpose and were not backed with enough collateral.

The three are due in court May 6, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Van Den Heuvel and his attorney did not respond to messages from the newspaper seeking comment on the indictment. Piikkila’s attorney, Dan Sanders, said his client is cooperating with investigators.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mel Johnson said he was unable to comment on whether Van Den Heuvel’s conduct with WEDC also was the focus of an ongoing federal investigation.

Brown County sheriff’s deputies also raided the businessman’s offices last summer, according to the newspaper.

A spokesman for WEDC said the agency has improved its lending practices and continues to seek repayment of the Green Box loans for taxpayers.

Scott Walker says he supports WEDC fraud bill

Gov. Scott Walker says he supports a bipartisan bill that would make providing fraudulent information to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation a crime.

WEDC has been plagued with scandals and failures since Walker created it after his first election to replace the Department of Commerce. Intended as a job-creation agency, WEDC gave more about 60 percent of its loans to Walker contributors without requiring them to create jobs in the state and losing track of at least $24 million that it awarded.

The fraud bill would make providing a false statement on an application for grants, loans or other WEDC benefits punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The bill also would make anyone who commits such fraud ineligible for WEDC benefits for seven years.

Walker told reporters after speaking at a dairy conference at a Madison convention center that whoever gives fraudulent information to the state should face consequences.

Walker donor William Minahan got a $500,000 WEDC loan in 2011 after checking “no” when asked if his company or any of its officers had been sued in the last five years. Online court records show three lawsuits.

An audit showed that Walker appointees pushed the agency to give Minahan even more money — after the agency learned that he’d pledged agency funds to pay for a lease on a Maserati sports car. The company defaulted on the loan from the state, and WEDC failed to attempt collecting it.

The agency also handed out $1.2 million in grants and loans to Green Box NA Green Bay LLC after the company said it could turn dirty plastic forks and ketchup-stained napkins into jobs.

But it appears that the agency didn’t look deeply enough into the company; founder Ron Van Den Heuvel owed millions in legal judgments to banks, business partners, state tax officials and even a jeweler. In February 2015, the agency considered giving Green Box additional incentives.

Ever since the audits that found mismanagement at WEDC were released to the public, the Walker administration and the Legislature’s Republican majority have been trying getting rid of government oversight committees and create new policies that allow lawmakers to withhold their emails and other information from the public.

Millennials desire to own a business, but see less opportunity

More than half of millennials desire to start a business, but fewer are creating new businesses than previous generations did at a similar age, according to a brief from the Center for American Progress.

Generation Progress, the youth advocacy arm of the Center for American Progress, brought together young entrepreneurs from Oakland, California; New York City and Columbus, Ohio and asked them about their experiences, the challenges they have faced and what policies they would recommend to remove the barriers to starting a business.

“Millennials have the drive and desire to start their own businesses, but would-be entrepreneurs are held back by the slow economy, high student-debt levels and a complicated legal and regulatory framework,” said Sarah Ayres Steinberg, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress and the author of the brief. “In addition, many investors and policymakers hold outdated views about who can be an entrepreneur and what constitutes entrepreneurship.”

Participants in the discussions agreed:

• High levels of student debt are one of the biggest hurdles to starting a business, confirming many experts’ view that today’s record-high student-debt levels are inhibiting entrepreneurship and broader economic growth. “My mom owned her own business for years, and I wanted to follow that path after I graduated,” one participant said. “But after taking on so much student debt, I realized it just wasn’t the right time to take on more debt.”

• Many organizations — from government agencies, to chambers of commerce, to business schools — often lack a strategic plan to support entrepreneurship that is both informed by business owners and effectively advertised to businesses.

• Traditional organizations designed to support entrepreneurs failed to understand mission-driven businesses.

• A strong and diverse entrepreneurial community was an important factor in where millennial entrepreneurs decided to locate their businesses.

To increase entrepreneurship among millennials, the issue brief recommends expanding access to early and fast capital, creating tools to navigate entrepreneurship’s legal and regulatory framework, developing mentorship communities, and allowing student borrowers to refinance their loans to a lower interest rate.