"American Greed" subject stole $27 million then slashed sentence by ratting out co-conspirators
Multi-million dollar scammer Michael Vorce sentenced to 12 years in prison
By Barton Deiters - October 29, 2009
"I've lived terribly," Vorce told the judge. "The decisions are mine, but the person who did it was not me. It doesn't reflect my parents or my family."
Vorce already has been behind bars for more than a year since federal authorities arrested him and co-conspirator James Jett in Chicago. In June, he pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count each of not filing a 2006 tax return and money laundering.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy VerHey said Vorce was unrepentant until he realized he was in deep trouble. Then the scam artist became cooperative and was able to provide information in other cases, including a Milwaukee murder investigation, that allowed him to shave about five years off his potential sentence.
Bell said his sentence was designed to send a message to other potential scammers, but at the same time leave Vorce with some hope after he gets out of prison when he is in his 40s.
"You were very, very clever," Bell said.
But in addition to the prison term, which could be reduced by a couple years if Vorce behaves behind bars, there is an outstanding balance of more than $16 million that is still owed banks and others who were defrauded.
Vorce's lawyer, Larry C. Willey, said it is unlikely his client will appeal and just as unlikely as those out their money will ever see their funds returned.
"Hey, it's not a perfect world," Willey said. "That's why he's going to prison."
During his guilty plea this summer, Vorce explained the scheme where he secured loans for at least 30 expensive boats with fraudulent documents and titles when he owned just four boats.
He said he used Photoshop, Microsoft Word and tax software programs to create fake documents -- some pumping up the value of boats -- as part of his West Michigan Yachts company, which supposedly specialized in buying distressed boats at wholesale and reselling them at a retail price.
"There was a significant amount of work that went into creating the information and perpetuating this," Vorce admitted.
Vorce described how he duped loan officers into believing he was a "credit worthy" borrower and gained their trust, eventually getting a $4.5 million line of credit from one bank.
He occasionally made payments on older loans to keep the cash flowing.
In the end, he said he never refurbished a single boat but kept four boats on hand in case bank officials wanted to see them.
Vorce skipped filing income tax returns after 2002 out of fear of jeopardizing the scheme, which involved creating fake returns to file with banks to get loans.
When federal authorities began investigating Vorce in early 2007, the banks seized his assets, including five plasma televisions, leather home theater chairs and two loaded sport-utility vehicles. Federal documents later alleged he used loan money to buy his sprawling Alpine Township home and a Miami condo.
He also drove around in an Aston Martin Vanquish -- a 12-cylinder sports car that typically sells for around $200,000.
Vorce continued his scam via the Internet, obtaining more loans as he disappeared from police. He admitted to using public wireless connections in West Michigan to apply for loans while he and Jett set up a "virtual" office in Chicago to receive documents. Vorce described how he used the Internet to first get a $200,000 loan, followed by loans for $700,000 and $800,000.
He said he would even conduct the scam on his laptop while sitting in chain restaurants and using their wireless connection.
Vorce said he never met a loan officer in person, securing all his loans over the phone and Internet.
He told how he and Jett were "successful in receiving a large amount of money in a short period of time, probably over three months" before federal authorities caught them picking up loan documents from a courier service in Chicago.
No representatives of the bank attended the sentencing, according to VerHey.
Voice's family members did not want to comment but gathered in the hallway of the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building with some saying that there was some relief that at least they knew Vorce's fate now and they can move forward with their lives.
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