Government: Ponzi Defendants Hatched Plot to Kill Co-Conspirator Over Dinner at Perkins Restaurant

In a bizarre turn of events that comes on the eve of the sentencing of several men convicted for their role in Trevor Cook's $194 million Ponzi scheme, prosecutors have revealed that several of the men conspired to have the third killed in order to collect on a life insurance policy.  The three men, Gerald Durand, Christopher Pettengill, and Jason "Bo" Beckman, are scheduled to learn their fate for aiding in Cook's scheme on January 3, 2013.  In a presentencing memorandum filed earlier this week, the government disclosed that, while enjoying dinner at a local Perkins restaurant in December 2009 several months after the scheme collapsed, Durand proposed to Pettengill that they arrange Beckman's death in order to share in the proceeds of a $2.5 million life insurance policy they apparently held. Durand's attorney is now seeking to exclude the incident from the court's consideration.

The three men, along with radio host Patrick Kiley, were portrayed as key players on Cook's Ponzi scheme and accused of soliciting investors for Cook's currency trading program that promised consistent annual returns of 10.5% to 12%.  Investors were assured that they could not lose their investment principal, and were told that Beckman was rated by independent research group Morningstar as among the top money managers worldwide.  Kiley appealed to investors through his position as a Christian radio host, where he warned of a financial armageddon and told investors to protect their money by investing with Cook.  In total, the scheme is said to have defrauded over 700 investors out of nearly $200 million.

Cook, the ringleader of the scheme, received a 25-year sentence in August 2010.  Soon after, Pettengill began to cooperate with the government, later pleading guilty in June 2011 to charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. Pettengill took the witness stand several times at the trial of the three men, which ultimately concluded with a federal jury convicting the men of all charges.  

While Pettengill faces a maximum potential sentence of twenty years, he is likely to receive a drastically reduced sentence owing to his cooperation with authorities.  However, Kiley, Durand, and Beckman each face potential life sentences after being convicted of at least 15 charges, and this has already prompted several of their attorneys to attack Pettengill's credibility in an effort to discredit his statements. Pettengill was attacked at Beckman's trial by Beckman's attorney, who contended that Pettengill, not Cook, deserved the most blame for the scheme, and characterized Pettengill as "the stool pigeon, the fink, the rat."  

Durand's attorney opposed the introduction of Pettengill's revelation in a Thursday filing, and it will fall to United States District Judge Michael Davis to decide whether Pettengill may testify.  

A copy of Pettengill's plea agreement is here.

A copy of Durand, Kiley, and Beckman's indictment is here.