GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (From news reports) -- A man accused of bilking investors in a recycling operation out of $9.8 million is now hoping COVID-19 will be his get-out-of-jail-free card.
Ronald Van Den Heuvel, 66, of De Pere is asking a federal judge to reduce his 7.5-year prison sentence and also allow him to serve the rest of his time at home. Van Den Heuvel claims his age and precarious health should make him a candidate for "immediate compassionate release" due to the national coronavirus outbreak.
Van Den Heuvel claims he has a serious autoimmune disease, and that he has lost 68 pounds, a big toe and several teeth because of diabetes. All of that makes him more susceptible to catching the virus, Van Den Heuvel claims.
He is serving his sentence in federal prison in Duluth.
He was convicted in U.S. District Court in Green Bay of fraudulently soliciting loans and investments to pursue his business, Green Box, which he represented as an operation that would convert solid waste into consumer products and energy.
Van Den Heuvel was already serving a three-year sentence for defrauding Horicon Bank of more than $300,000 by taking loans based on false representations when he received additional prison time for defrauding investors.
In his plea agreement, he acknowledged using investors' money to buy Packers tickets, settle legal disputes, make court-ordered payments to his ex-wife, and pay mortgage and property tax bills.
Federal prosecutors are opposing any reduced sentence or home confinement.
His prison in Duluth has had no reports of any COVID-19 cases among inmates or staff, prosecutors argued in a brief filed with the court.
Prosecutors also argued he would pose a risk to the public if released, especially since he was found to have continued to engage in fraud even while he was on pretrial supervision in the case.
He has served less than 2 years of his sentence, and any reduction or home confinement would be an offense to his numerous victims, prosecutors said.
That certainly would be true for Dr. Marco Araujo, a former Green Bay anesthesiologist and friend of Van Den Heuvel's, who was cheated out of $600,000 in the scheme.
Araujo called Van Den Heuvel's court filings "relentless attempts to escape justice. Not only does he want a release from prison, but also no financial restitution to the victims has been made.
"It has been a very painful issue to me," he said.
No court hearing date has been set for Van Den Heuvel's requests.