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Prison sentence cut for convicted Raleigh con man

Posted May 31, 2012
Updated June 1, 2012

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— A Raleigh man whom "60 Minutes" once called one of the biggest con men of all time will be released from federal prison in six months, a judge ruled Thursday.

Stan Van Etten is serving a 10-year sentence at a prison in Estill, S.C., after pleading guilty in 2005 to defrauding investors in two multimillion-dollar schemes.

"This case has humbled me. It has owned me and my family's life since 1998," he told U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle during a Thursday morning court hearing.

Van Etten operated International Heritage Inc., a multi-level marketing company in which people were recruited to sell luxury goods like jewelry, leather handbags and high-end pens. State and federal securities regulators determined the company was a front for a pyramid scheme and tried repeatedly to shut it down.

The company eventually went bankrupt.

Van Etten also was convicted of swindling investors in a venture capital fund, using their money for personal expenses.

"I'm truly remorseful. I'm a different person. I want to live a simple, humble life. I want to go home and start over," he told Boyle. "I was raised to be a good, but I became greedy. I got lost and infatuated with power. I lost track."

Although he called Van Etten "a confirmed liar," Boyle slashed the prison sentence after ruling that Van Etten had provided substantial assistance to federal authorities by working as an informant while in prison.

Van Etten helped the government crack down on corruption in the Estill prison. Bureau of Prisons employees were using orders for inmate work boots to obtain high heels and sneakers for themselves and were getting the government to pick up the bill for service on their personal cars, authorities said.

He also led investigators to a fellow inmate's hidden $300,000 stash of gold in Florida. Authorities said the inmate claimed to lack the assets to pay his court-ordered restitution.

"He enjoyed being on the right side of the law," defense attorney James Craven said. "He's done an awful lot of good."

"I don't see this as a transformation, maybe a transgression," Boyle responded.


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  • lew61 Jun 1, 2012

    Stay tuned.....

  • starvingdog Jun 1, 2012

    What about the people he victimized? No justice for them. He walks, having 'paid his debt' - yeah, right. Any amount over minimum wage he earns at any time in the future should be garnished for the use of his victims....leave him the min. to live on...maybe...

  • gottablackgoddess2k12 Jun 1, 2012

    ....still conning ~ He better watch his back.....ppl change but he is still making use of his craft! Hope

  • lumberman Jun 1, 2012

    They say crime does pay. But it sure looks like it does to me.

  • Skyyecatfromafar Jun 1, 2012

    Seems there's a little bit of "crookedness" on both sides of the bars . . yes?

    "The prison employees were using orders for inmate work boots to obtain high heels and sneakers for themselves and were getting the Bureau of Prisons to pick up the bill for service on their personal cars, authorities said."

    Or to put it another way; perhaps the prison employees should be wearing a different kind of prison 'uniform.'

  • eb2cents May 31, 2012

    Will he be eligible for witness protection? I don't know anything about it, except I love the show: In Plain Sight. I know - kinda' weak referring to a TV show for info.

  • Sherlock May 31, 2012

    The man is still a great con man look what he just did to the court!

  • Lovemy2kids May 31, 2012

    are you kidding me? What this is saying is that you can rob, cheat & steal and as long as you suck up to the prision system you will get out in no time!

  • saturn5 May 31, 2012

    The Honey Badger: "If this guy used a gun to rob people, he'd be in prison for a long time. Why should he get a break because he used a pen and a phone to rob his victims?"

    The law treats violent crime more severely than non-violent. You're much more likely to be killed by someone robbing you with a gun than a pen and phone.

  • technetium9 May 31, 2012

    I wonder were he hid his gold? reformed into a better liar and snitch.