Allegan County Man Sentenced On $300,000 Elder Fraud Scheme

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

James Black used lies and intimidation to scam an elderly victim into paying nearly $300,000 in fraudulent home repairs.

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that James Robert Black (a/k/a “Jim Gribble” and “Victor Valentine”) was sentenced to prison for his part in a scheme to defraud an elderly Holland, Michigan homeowner out of nearly $300,000.  

          Black, age 58, was charged in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud along with codefendant Tyler Harris.  The indictment alleged that Black and Harris defrauded an elderly owner of a home in Holland of $298,000 through a fraudulent roof repair scheme. The homeowner hired Black, who went by the name “Jim Gribble,” to do a roof repair.  After that, the defendants pressured the homeowner to pay almost $300,000 for a series of false problems associated with the project, including dangerous working conditions, employee injuries, threatened lawsuits and criminal tax issues. Conspiracy to commit wire fraud is a felony offense punishable by up to 20 years in prison. 

          Harris pled guilty and was sentenced on December 3, 2020.   Black was a fugitive and could not be located until August 11, 2021, when federal investigators tracked him to Florida and arrested him there.  Black pled guilty to the conspiracy charge on November 12, 2021. 

          On March 23, 2022, U.S. District Judge Janet Neff sentenced Black to prison for a term of 60 months and ordered restitution in the amount of $238,000.  When she imposed the sentence, Judge Neff said Black deserved a harsh sentence because he had a long history of committing the same kind of frauds in the past.

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          U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge advised that “Grifters like Black will prey on anyone, but it is particularly galling to see someone victimize the elderly. Mr. Black deserves everything the judge ordered.”      

          The investigation of this case was done by the Department of Homeland Security.  Prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy VerHey.

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