Northern Michigan Woman Sentenced To 70 Months In Prison In Multi-Million Dollar Investment Scheme
Sarah Bolhuis Ordered to Repay $5,225,854.41 to 53 Victims
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Sarah Frances Bolhuis, 70, of Ellsworth, in Antrim County, Michigan, was sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison and ordered to repay $5.2 million to 53 victims of her investment fraud scheme. The Honorable Paul L. Maloney, U.S. District Judge, imposed the sentence, and further ordered her to serve three years of court supervision upon her release from prison.
Bolhuis pled guilty in September 2016 to wire fraud and money laundering charges, and admitted making numerous false and fraudulent misrepresentations and promises concerning financial services she claimed to provide for many years under the name American Financial ("AMFI") and Tri-Logic. Bolhuis admitted that she did not use the victims’ money as promised. Instead, Bolhuis made payments to a business partner, made return-of-principal and other payments to "investors," and paid "finder fees" to individuals who successfully recruited new "investors." In truth, there were no real investments made, as she had promised. Additionally, Bolhuis admitted laundering proceeds of the fraud. In one instance, she admitted depositing into a bank account money that she obtained from one victim and withdrawing $27,500 from the same account to make a payment to another victim in what amounted to a Ponzi-style scheme.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted in its sentencing memorandum that several of the victims suffered substantial financial hardship as a result of their losses. Although the scheme netted more than $7.5 million, only $2.3 million in repayments were traced due in large part to the extensive use of U.S. currency in the scheme. Bolhuis went to extraordinary lengths to hide the scheme, including having one of her victims pretend to be another person to (unbeknownst to that victim) corroborate one of the many lies she told others to convince them that she was using their money as promised. The government also outlined a new "real estate rescue" fraud Bolhuis perpetrated on one of her victims even after her Ponzi-style scheme had unraveled and she knew she was under investigation by state and federal law enforcement.
Acting U.S. Attorney Birge stated, "Fraudulent investment schemes that cause significant financial harm to individual investors will always be a priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. And we will work as hard as we can to get money back for the victims and to make sure the net return for those who spin the web of lies will be prison time, as Ms. Bolhuis has learned."
Special Agent in Charge Manny Muriel, IRS - Criminal Investigation, stated: "Ponzi schemes can thrive for a time on false claims about how the money is being invested and where the returns are coming from. But as demonstrated by today’s sentencing, that time has gone in this case and one who preyed on investors for their personal gain has been held accountable. It is always important to keep in mind that investment schemes that seem too good to be true should be a signal to investors to stay clear."
David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI, stated: "The defendant in this investment scheme stole millions of dollars from over 50 investors causing life altering and damaging financial harm. Today’s sentence demonstrates that those responsible for predatory investment fraud schemes like the one orchestrated by Bolhuis will be held to account for their crimes."
IRS Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to investigate this matter. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher O’Connor prosecuted the case.