U.S. Attorney's office reacts to Twin Cities Business story: "Tom Petters is a fraudster"
Twin Cities Business' cover story this month tells "The Untold Story of Tom Petters."
In the piece, convicted Ponzi schemer Tom Petters asserts his innocence.
"Petters remains adamant that others took a legitimate business and turned it into a Ponzi scheme without his knowledge," writes Twin Cities Business editor Dale Kurschner. Petters blames his conviction on pre-trial publicity and says overall public sentiment was against financiers from 2008-2009.
The United States Attorney's office says it's "aware of the article" but is unwilling to discuss Petters' specific claims.
"We don't re-try cases in the media," says spokeswoman Jeanne Cooney. "Why would we? We won."
Still, Cooney took a shot at Petters.
"Tom Petters is a fraudster," says Cooney. "He didn't acquire the amount of ill-gotten gains he acquired without the benefit of a charming, seductive personality. He's not gonna stop using that personality now that he's in prison, as evidenced by this article."
Kurschner, the story's author, tells City Pages that the story speaks for itself.
"We didn't run this story to try to re-open the trial," Kurschner responds. "We ran this story because the public had never heard from him as to what happened."
Asked about Petters' proclaimed innocence, Kurschner says, "I believe he believes it. I don't personally know one way or the other."
In an editor's note accompanying the story, Kurschner says he was thinking about a personal experience he'd had with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC sent Kurschner a letter accusing him of violating their rules when he was running Profits Journal.
"We quickly proved that we had done nothing wrong," Kurschner wrote. "But if you haven't experienced something like this, here's how it can go: You get a certified letter, a page and a half or two, telling you why you are guilty until you can prove your innocence. Whether or not it's all speculation, it's from the government and you scramble to respond immediately. After you've done so, you don't receive another letter saying, 'Our apologies,' or 'You're right, you're fine.' Silence from the SEC is to be taken as 'all clear'..."
That got Kurschner thinking about how hard it is to bust executives and companies who lie to the public, which got him thinking about Petters. Kurschner soon realized he couldn't find anything describing the situation "from Petters himself." So he wrote Petters a letter.
At first, Kurschner tells City Pages, Petters rejected his interview request, but the two kept up their correspondence for six months until Petters agreed to an interview. (Kurschner says he has no plans to publish the letters.)
The resulting article is worth reading: it is, after all, a comprehensive look at Petters' crimes from his perspective.
That said, it's hard to sympathize with a man who was convicted of running the nation's third-largest Ponzi scheme, especially since Petters blames everyone else for his conviction.
"We stand behind our prosecution of Tom Petters," says Jeanne Cooney. "A grand jury of Minnesota citizens approved indicting him on those charges. A trial jury, again of Minnesota citizens, convicted him on those charges."
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