Tom Petters, Ponzi schemer, likely to face life sentence next month

A federal judge announced Monday that he will sentence Tom Petters on March 10 for running a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme, and experts predict the hammer will come down hard on the fallen business mogul.

Petters could easily spend the rest of his life in prison, says Donald M. Lewis, Dean of the Hamline University Law School.

Lewis says federal guidelines put Petters at a base recommendation of 17 and a half years in prison.

"Then you have aggravating or mitigating characteristics that could add to that level," he says. "There are enough other considerations in the sentencing guidelines that will very quickly boost that level of offense."

Lewis says it "wouldn't take long" for those factors to add up to a life sentence in Petters' case.

Petters' attorneys say they plan to appeal the 20-count conviction handed down in December, so it is almost certain that this won't be the final chapter of the Petters saga. But Lewis says the odds of a judge letting Petters roam free pending an appeal are about ziltch. "The judge is not going to let him out."

If you're somehow unfamiliar with Petters' odyssey from slick exec to orange jumpsuit, check out Ken Avidor's comic-strip coverage of the trial.

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