2 Michigan brothers sentenced in investment scheme

AP News
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Posted: Dec 24, 2009 1:01 PM

Two Lansing, Mich.-area brothers have been sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $21.6 million in restitution as part of what authorities described as an oil and gas investment scheme.

Fifty-five-year-old Eric Riley Merkle and 53-year-old Jay Vernon Merkle were sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. The Williamston men earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy, securities fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud.

Authorities say the brothers created a company known as Platinum Business Industries, which operated as a Ponzi scheme. They solicited investors by telling them PBI would use their money to fund oil and gas exploration.

A third man earlier was sentenced to 30 months in prison for helping operate the scheme.