DES MOINES — A Pella man federal prosecutors say ran a "Ponzi-like" scheme that cost investors millions has pled guilty and faces 20 years in federal prison.
Mark Alan Blankespoor, 49, of Pella, entered a guilty plea on Monday in federal court to one count of wire fraud. The agreement filed in U.S. Southern Iowa District Court stipulates the government would support dismissing the 23 other counts filed against him. For the charge he pled guilty to, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fined up to a quarter-million dollars. Sentencing is set for Oct. 24.
In March a federal grand jury handed down a 24-count indictment charging Blankespoor with mail and wire fraud, alleging he defrauded investors of more than $6.5 million, according to court filings.
Blankespoor was a health coach that told others he was “developing medically-oriented gyms and licensed the program to fitness clinics across the United States,” officials said when announcing the indictment.
The grand jury charged him with using money from investors for personal expenditures and to pay other investors. All told, court documents say Blankespoor worked with more than 150 investors and received a total of $15.4 million in investments between May 2013 and January 2019.
The FBI led the investigation. The U.S. Attorney General's Office in Des Moines referred to it as a "ponzi-like" scheme in a press release they issued in April.
Blankespoor in May, following his charges, filed for bankruptcy and lists four pending litigations against him in the last year. One is the federal case he pled guilty in Monday and two others are foreclosure proceedings in Marion County.
The other is a case filed in New York against him and Pella Recreation Center, Inc. by Bankers Healthcare Group, LLC. An Iowa Secretary of State database lists Blankespoor as the registered agent of Pella Recreation Center, Inc. The bankruptcy filing indicates the lawsuit is for breach of financing agreement, but specific details weren’t readily available.
In all, Blankespoor reports approximately $3.2 million in unsecured debt and more than 200 debtors. Many list “unknown” as amounts owed, a significant portion identify the debtors as “Blankespoor Consulting Investor.”
A joint checking account Blankespoor had with a spouse contained $459,000 was seized by investigators in January, the bankruptcy filing indicates.