"Staring into the abyss of nearly 15,000 days of incarceration, Petters has tried to pull off one final con..."U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle
A Minnesota man serving a 50-year prison sentence for operating the third-largest Ponzi scheme in history saw his hopes for a reduced sentence dashed when a Minnesota federal judge denied his request for a shorter sentence. Thomas Petters, 56, was convicted in 2009 after standing trial on charges he masterminded a $3.7 billion Ponzi scheme, and was sentenced to a fifty-year prison term. Petters filed a motion back in May seeking a reduction in his sentence based on claims his then-attorney failed to advise him of a government plea bargain that included a 30-year prison term. Calling it Petters' "final con," U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle stated in a 22-page order that Petters was "entitled to neither relief nor sympathy from this Court," and that the "last-ditch attempt to escape just punishment for his crimes does not hold water."
Petters claimed that, after his arrest in October 2008, his former attorney failed to convey a plea bargain from the government that would include Petters serving a 30-year prison sentence. Arguing that this failure to communicate the plea offer constituted ineffective assistance of counsel, Petters sought judicial modification of his sentence from a 50-year term to the 30-year term previously offered on the basis that Petters would have readily accepted that sentence if he had been aware.
At an evidentiary hearing in October, Petters was grilled on the witness stand by prosecutors, who claimed Petters would say anything in order to win a sentence reduction. For the first time, Petters admitted his guilt in the scheme, but countenanced that with the claim that he was not the mastermind and that the scheme was simply a "culmination of ideas that got messed up." Petters' former attorney also testififed that he did communicate the plea offer to Petters, and that Petters had deemed the offer "ridiculous" at the time. The former attorney, Jon Hopeman, also testified that Petters had instructed him not to settle for anything less than a 15-year term.
In a ruling issued yesterday, Judge Kyle rejected Petters' claims in ruling that he received "constitutionally effective counsel and his sentence was not unlawful." Judge Kyle discounted Petters' version of events, remarking that
Staring into the abyss of nearly 15,000 days of incarceration, Petters has tried to pull off one final con.
Petters' attorney indicated he is evaluating his options. Petters is currently scheduled to be released in 2052 - just shy of his 95th birthday.
A copy of Petters' Motion is here.