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Man pleads guilty in sex offender list scam: Grandville man promised to remove names from list for a fee of $35

6-11-2002 Michigan:

.A letter convincing convicted sex offenders it was possible to remove their names from a state police Internet registry sent money pouring into the apartment of Grandville man David Ducham. The letter also caught the attention of a state police investigator who said Ducham had the potential to run a million-dollar scam if authorities had not caught on to the swindling enterprise.

Ducham pleaded guilty in Ottawa County Circuit Court Wednesday to obtaining $35 each from 269 sex offenders under false pretenses. The felony count carries the possibility of life imprisonment, but a plea agreement calls for the 51-year-old to serve an undetermined probationary term with the chance he'll have to wear a tether as part of a reporting system. He will also pay restitution to those who mailed him money.

Assistant Attorney General John Walter said in court that Ducham bilked $9,415 from sexual deviants under the guise that they were "entitled to share in settlement and disbursement funds." The letter never states that a lawsuit was filed, but does carry several references to justice and implied that a lawsuit had been filed against the state over the sex offender registry.

Police say Ducham mailed thousands of letters across the state at the same time the registry was under question about its constitutionality. A federal judge had suspended the registry, but the ruling was later overturned and the registry is still online listing offenders, their crimes and addresses. Drawn on clean, professional-looking letterhead, the mailing asked sex offenders to send $35 to Ducham's home address beginning in April 2001.

He was arrested by state police while going to the post office with another batch of letters. "I understand some people thought it was from a law firm," Ducham said while pleading guilty before Judge Edward Post. Ducham, who is free on $5,000 bond, declined comment after Wednesday's hearing, but his attorney said the Grandville man decided to plead guilty to resolve the criminal allegation.

"It's a real toss-up of whether a crime was committed and whether his action violated the law or not," said Joe Legatz. "The letter didn't say he was from a law firm or that a lawsuit was filed, but apparently some people interpreted it that way.

"It would have been an interesting question to ask a jury, but he felt it was right to return the money." State police Detective Tom DeClercq, who serves on the criminal major case team, said the scam was an unusual, but clever form of deception. "This was a strange case by a man who is a scam artist," DeClercq said last year. "This had the potential to be huge. It could have been hundreds of thousands or a million dollars by the time he was done." Ducham will be sentenced Jan. 12.: by NATE REENS, Staff writer..more..

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