Local News

Prison sentence cut for convicted Raleigh con man

Posted May 31, 2012 12:11 p.m. EDT
Updated June 1, 2012 10:51 a.m. EDT

— 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.