A health coach in Iowa is being charged with defrauding dozens of people out of more than $6.5 million in a ponzi-like scheme.
Mark Blankespoor, 49, pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of mail fraud and 12 counts of wire fraud as part of scheme to get people to invest in a gym program.
According to the Des Moines NBC affiliate, Blankespoor told investors from at least May 2013 through this past January that the medically oriented program would be licensed to fitness clinics nationwide and that investors could earn a 40 percent return on their money.
The Des Moines Register reported that people mailed Blankespoor checks from a number of places, including Sioux City, Iowa; Madison, Wis.; and Rapid City, S.D. One check for $300,000 wired to him from a bank in South Sioux City, Neb.
Prosecutors say Blankespoor used the money primarily for himself and occasionally to pay other investors.
Blankespoor's attorneys described his client as a respected physical therapist and certified health coach, who holds a bachelor of the arts, a master of business administration and a doctorate degree in physical therapy. The attorney said Blankespoor is the past president of the Iowa Physical Therapy Association and a successful businessman, having "previously founded and operated multiple work rehab clinics throughout central Iowa and a large fitness business."
Blankespoor’s trial is set for June 3. If convicted, each charge could send him to prison for as many as 20 years. The counts also carry fines of up to $250,000.