Federal judge denies convicted Minn. fraudster Tom Petters’ appeal for shorter sentence

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A federal judge on Thursday denied Minnesota businessman Tom Petters’ appeal for a shorter sentence for his conviction in a $3.5 billion fraud scheme, saying Petters “has tried to pull off one final con.”

In the conclusion of his 22-page order, U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle said Petters “is entitled to neither relief nor sympathy from this Court.”

“Like so many before it, this great American tragedy, in which money was lost, lives were ruined, and more than a dozen people have been sent to prison, has come to an end. Petters’ last-ditch attempt to escape just punishment for his crimes does not hold water,” Kyle wrote

Petters, 56, was convicted in 2009 of running a Ponzi scheme. He sought to have 20 years cut off his 50-year prison sentence.

Petters maintained his innocence at his trial, where jurors convicted him on 20 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

But at a hearing in October, Petters admitted his guilt. He said he would have accepted a 30-year plea deal but was told of the possible offer only after he was sentenced.

But Kyle determined that Petters’ attorneys repeatedly told him of the government’s proposal.

The judge said Petters “received constitutionally effective counsel and his sentence was not unlawful.”

“Staring into the abyss of nearly 15,000 days of incarceration, Peters has tried to pull off one final con,” Kyle wrote.

Petters’ new attorney, Steve Meshbesher, said Petters and his family are disappointed by the ruling.

“The judge didn’t believe him (Petters). That’s what damning about it (the ruling). He simply didn’t believe him,” Meshbesher told The Associated Press.

Meshbesher said Petters, who is serving his sentence in the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kan., told him that he told the truth, “and he’s hurt that the judge didn’t believe that.”

Petters’ family is looking at its options, Meshbesher said.