GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Sarah Frances Bolhuis, 70-years-old, of Antrim County, was charged with two felonies in connection with a scheme to defraud others of their money, U.S. Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr. announced today.
Federal investigators believe that more than 50 individuals in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Florida may have fallen victim to the fraud and collectively lost more than $5 million in the scheme.
The felony charges filed today in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids allege that Sarah Bolhuis devised and executed a scheme to defraud to obtain money from others between 2006 and 2015. As part of the scheme, the government alleges that Bolhuis, operating under the names American Financial (AMFI), TriLogic, and Prestige Benefits, falsely represented to prospective clients that she was engaged in the business of providing various financial services and investment loan opportunities.
In truth, as alleged in the Felony Information, Bolhuis did not use client money as promised; instead, she made payments to a business partner, made return-of-principal and other payments to clients, paid “finder fees” to individuals who successfully recruited new clients, and paid various personal living and entertainment expenses. Bolhuis also is alleged to have laundered proceeds of the fraud by depositing into a bank account money she obtained from one victim and withdrawing $27,500 from the same account to make a payment to another victim.
Bolhuis has signed a plea agreement in which she waived her right to indictment by a Grand Jury and agreed to enter guilty pleas to the wire fraud and money laundering charges. In the plea agreement filed with the Court today, Bolhuis has admitted making the following false and fraudulent misrepresentations and promises concerning the financial services she claimed to provide:
- She falsely claimed that her business provided short term funding to adult foster care homes and to individuals seeking debt refinancing;
- She falsely claimed she would invest certain client money in overseas accounts;
- She falsely represented that certain funds would be invested in silver coins;
- She falsely promised that she was making payments on a client’s home mortgage (including a second mortgage taken out by the client to fund investments with Bolhuis) using interest and/or fees earned from the investments; and
- She promised to pay some of her clients between 3% and 5% interest per month on the principal monies provided to her by her clients. Some clients were promised even higher interest rates.
Additionally, Bolhuis admitted in the plea agreement that the total amount of money obtained in the scheme was approximately $7.5 million. Although some of those funds were paid to participants during the course of the scheme, more than $5 million in fraudulent proceeds must be repaid to the victims.
Bolhuis faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the fraud charge and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for money laundering. The Court will determine the sentence after considering the federal sentencing guidelines and statutory sentencing factors. An arraignment and change of plea will be scheduled with the Court. Until a defendant enters a plea and is found guilty, charges in a Felony Information are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.