Tom Petters, The "Minnesota Madoff," Gets 50 Years Out of Potential 335 Years for $3.7 Billion Ponzi Scheme

Former Minnesota billionaire and former owner of Polaroid and Sun Country Airlines Tom Petters was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment yesterday by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, according to the Associated Press. Petters, 52, was charged with a $3.7 billion Ponzi scheme--the largest in Minnesota history-- which had over 500 victims and defrauded hedge funds, pastors, missionaries and retirees, among others. His company, PCI, was alleged to have used false purchase orders and bank records to convince investors to finance alleged purchases of electronics which PCI would allegedly resell to retailers such as Sam's Club and Costco. The government contended that the alleged merchandise never existed. Petters was alleged to have taken $400 million of the investments to support his companies and a lavish personal lifestyle. 

Petters was convicted on 20 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in December. Petters told the Court that he was "filled with pain" for the lives which had been destroyed as a result of the conduct, but did not admit guilt. Petters had claimed at trial that he was unaware of the fraud in his organization, Petters Group Worldwide, and that his business associates were responsible. The prosecution had urged that Petters receive the statutory maximum sentence of 335 years; the defense had argued that 4 years would constitute sufficient punishment. He has cooperated with a court-appointed attorney in attempting to recover monies lost by the scheme.

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