Eight Charged in Racketeering Scheme

Eight people are charged with calling neighbors in nearly a half dozen states, and misrepresenting themselves as volunteers working for law enforcement and veterans groups.

They collected more than $10 million in donations, and while all eight of the people charged are from Wisconsin, they weren't calling people here.

Police say Kolve started several area businesses that hired people to make the fradulent phone calls.

"We're talking about solicited donations from millions of people," said Eau Claire County District Attorney Rich White.

A year-long investigation including search warrants and undercover work led officers to people supervising the scheme:

26-year old Brian Backen from Eau Claire

36-year old Stacy Deprey from New Auburn (She previously served a nine-month jail sentence for her involvement in an embezzlement plot in Eau Claire County)

32-year olds William Dixson from Somerset and Michael Lynch from nearby New Richmond (where two charities Kolve allegedly put together were housed)

27-year old Steven Ranta of Altoona

31-year old Christopher Keen of chippewa falls...

36-year old Michael Rider (the only suspect from outside Western Wisconsin)

"We were fairly expiditious in getting to where we're at now," White said.

Officers say the telemarketers were pushy, asking a retired cancer patient to consider a small donation, and telling a 96-year old woman her $15 donation was the least she could do.

"All those donations were obtained fraudulently," White added.

"The investigation has been, for lack of a term, absolutely massive."

All eight suspects are scheduled to go before a judge Wednesday morning. Keen, Rider, Deprey and Kolve have the most at stake. If convicted, they could each serve at least 150 years in prison.

If you're concerned about where your donations are going, contact your state's department of consumer protection.


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