updated 10/28/2005 8:46:10 PM ET 2005-10-29T00:46:10

The ringleader of a scheme that bilked investors out of millions of dollars was sentenced to 25 years in prison Friday, but not before the screaming defendant was removed from the courtroom.

Janet Mavis Marcusse was convicted of defrauding 577 people of $12.7 million and laundering the money through bank accounts opened under the names of nonexistent churches.

Marcusse, 49, spoke for more than an hour at the hearing, accusing the government of setting her up. She walked away from the lectern as U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell began issuing her sentence, prompting the judge to order U.S. marshals to bring her back, prosecutor Mike Schipper said.

Marcusse yelled repeatedly at the judge while she was restrained, saying “I don’t recognize you” before she was removed from the courtroom, Schipper said. Bell sentenced her and ordered the court reporter to give the defendant a copy of the transcript, the prosecutor said.

“It’s unfortunate that she was unable to maintain the decorum of the court and show the respect to Judge Bell that Judge Bell showed her by allowing her to speak for over an hour,” said David L. Kaczor, a federal public defender assigned to help Marcusse prepare her defense. She had refused to be represented by a lawyer.

Prosecutors said Marcusse led a ring that preyed on investors including many retirees who lost their life savings. There were victims throughout the United States, but most were from western Michigan.

‘I lost everything’
Paul Stinger, 63, of Spring Lake, lost about $150,000 in the scam. He had retired from his production job at Steelcase Inc., a Grand Rapids-based maker of office furniture where about a quarter of the victims worked, but he now has a construction job to make ends meet.

“I lost everything,” he said. “I have no retirement.”

Marcusse was convicted in June of 61 counts, including conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering. Seven others convicted in the case were sentenced this month to prison terms ranging from five to 20 years.

Marcusse was living in Grand Rapids when the investigation started but fled with her investment records to the Branson, Mo., area in 2002. She remained a fugitive until 2004, when authorities tracked her to a cabin in a wooded area of rural Missouri, prosecutors said.

Marcusse accused the government of tampering with witnesses and other prosecutorial misconduct. Schipper called the allegations “absolutely baseless.”

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