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Staff report,
Pioneer Press | 12/02/2009 04:41:58 PM CST
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A jury today found Tom Petters guilty of all 20 felony counts, ending the largest fraud case in Minnesota state history.

Petters, wearing a dark gray suit, white shirt and burgundy tie, showed no emotion as the verdict was read late this afternoon by U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle. Sentencing is expected in a couple of months.

Petters, 52, a well-known entrepreneur who founded Petters Group Worldwide and ran the empire from his Minnetonka headquarters, watched it all collapse a year ago.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated more than 30 hours to reach a verdict following a 17-day trial filled with weeping witnesses, confrontational cross-examinations and several hours of secretly taped recordings from Petters’ corporate offices.The 20 felony fraud counts stem from a $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme that imploded in September 2008 after more than 50 federal agents from the IRS and FBI raided Petters’ corporate headquarters in Minnetonka.

He had portrayed one of his businesses — Petters Co. Inc. — as a buyer and seller of massive amounts of consumer electronics. While investors believed the business to be highly lucrative, prosecutors showed that very little real merchandise ever changed hands, and the scheme depended on constant, huge inflows of cash from new investors.

The jury rejected Petters’ contention that associates had orchestrated the scheme without his knowledge. Petters had taken the stand during the trial, engaging in

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