Publicly available records provided by the Department of Justice and accessed on April 3, 2019 indicate that Mark Blankespoor of Pella, Iowa has been charged by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa with mail fraud (twelve counts) and wire fraud (twelve counts). He will be tried on June 3, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.
According to a Department of Justice press release, Mark Blankespoor worked in Pella, Iowa as a health coach and a consultant. In connection with the alleged Ponzi-like scheme he is accused of running, he allegedly made representations to possible investors that he was “involved in developing medically-oriented gyms” and had licensed a fitness program to clinics around the country. Beginning in or around May 2013 and continuing until at least January 2019, according to the release, he told investors that they could make money investing in his gym concept, and “at least 150 investors” invested about $15 million through Mr. Blankespoor. However, Mr. Blankespoor allegedly used his investors’ funds for “unauthorized purpose” including personal expenses and to pay other investors, leading to losses of more than $6.5 million for his alleged victims.
An April 2019 report by the Des Moines Register states that Mr. Pell, who has pleaded not guilty, told investors they could make a 40% return on the investment in his purported fitness program, per the charges against him. The purported gym was “marketed as a medical fitness center with a physical therapy component,” according to the Register, and Mr. Blankespoor asserted that it was being licensed by a person in Buffalo, New York. His alleged victims sent him checks from such locations as Sioux City; Madison, Wisconsin; and Rapid City, South Dakota, that article states, citing court records.
Mark Blankespoor, 49, owns Blankespoor Consulting in Pella, Iowa, and has been released on bond after his arrest on Friday, March 29th, according to the Register. He previously worked as president of the Iowa Physical Therapy Association, and was described by one of his lawyers as “a respected physical therapist and certified health coach” who “previously founded and operated multiple work rehab clinics throughout central Iowa and a large fitness business.”
According to the Register and the Department of Justice, both mail and wire fraud are “punishable by a maximum prison term of twenty years,” and Mr. Blankespoor could also face a fine as high as $250,000. The Department of Justice notes, however, that “an indictment is only an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”