Tom Petters was sentenced to 50 years in prison on Thursday, April 8, after being convicted of 20 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.
His $3.7 billion scheme included hedge funds, pastors, missionaries and retirees among its victims, the Star Tribune reported. They said that Petters apologized to those who were hurt by his actions, but he didn't admit guilt. He claimed he didn't know about the fraud within his operations at Petters Group Worldwide, but U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle said he didn't believe that statement.
The defense said four years of prison time would suffice as punishment for Petters, but Kyle said the longer sentence was necessary, the Star Tribune reported. However, he did not grant the maximum of 335 years, as prosecutors had argued, because 50 years was basically a life sentence anyway for 52-year-old Petters-- he would be 93 before he could go free, if he got time taken off for the 18 months he's already served and/or for good behavior.
According to the article, Judge Kyle said he would recommend that Petters be allowed to serve his time in Minnesota, which would let him be closer to his family, including his two young sons, but ultimately the decision will be up to the Bureau of Prisons.
The defense said Thursday in court that Petters is innocent and they plan to appeal.
According to the Pioneer Press, on Tuesday, April 13, Petters filed that appeal. However, the article said the corporate insurance policy that has paid for Petters' defense up until now won't cover the appeal, so Petters asked that the court appoint an attorney for him because he's out of money; he asked they appoint Eric Riensche, who has been a part of the defense team throughout the trial, the Pioneer Press said.