The Tom Petters fraud case

A glimpse of Petters' lifestyle in court files

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 23, 2008 - 11:00 AM

Reports detail costly homes, cars and amenities that the fraud suspect and his cohorts enjoyed.

It might not be "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," but the trappings of wealth that accompanied the alleged fraud scheme of Tom Petters and associates is not chump change either.

Documents filed Monday by two court-appointed receivers overseeing Petters and several associates reveal stores of cash and collections of fancy real estate, exotic cars and valuable artwork, including some paintings by Hollywood movie star Tony Curtis.

One of receiver Doug Kelley's responsibilities is to identify individual as well as corporate assets of Petters, Petters' companies and five others who have pleaded guilty to a variety of fraud, conspiracy and tax charges in an alleged $3.5 billion investment fraud scheme.

Petters, 51, of Wayzata, has pleaded not guilty to a 20-count indictment and has vowed a fight.

Kelley told the court that he has been changing locks on residences "where necessary" to protect the value of properties. He also has ordered residential and commercial locations to be videotaped to preserve and maintain the properties.

Among Kelley's other recent actions:

• Petters' Florida and Colorado residencies have been put up for sale.

• All but two of the credit cards of Deanna Coleman -- Petters' close assistant for 15 years until she turned government informant in September -- have been destroyed. The only cards Coleman can keep is one for emergencies and one that enables her to get an employee discount at a department store where she works.

• Robert White, a former employee and consultant to Petters who admitted to helping him prepare paperwork to mislead investors, has to give up three boats and a slightly damaged 2005 Porsche 911. Kelley is trying to determine whether it's worth the money to fix the repairs to the Porsche before selling it.

• James Wehmhoff, Petters' finance director and tax accountant, has a cabin in the northern Minnesota town of Aitkin, two cars and several recreational vehicles that will be sold off.

• Michael Catain, who has admitted to processing investor proceeds for Petters, has homes in Costa Rica and Minnesota that will go on the market. So will his Bentley automobile.

• Larry Reynolds, another money transfer agent who admitted to helping Petters mislead investors, owns the Tony Curtis paintings that must be sold, as well as a 2007 Bentley, a 2004 Ferrari and homes in California and Nevada.

In an unrelated court filing Monday, Reynolds seeks to loosen his home-detention requirements for family activities during the holidays. His attorney, Fred Bruno, noted in a motion that Reynolds had shown his good faith by helping authorities find "a significant asset" in Las Vegas that Kelley hadn't known about, and which he said could easily have been "purloined."

"Mr. Reynolds ... has provided valuable cooperation to the prosecutors in this case," Bruno wrote.

Gary Hansen is the receiver managing the assets of Frank Vennes Jr., a businessman who helped round up investors for Petters but who has not been charged with any crimes. Hansen filed his first report Monday, identifying a vast portfolio of real estate holdings, some quite valuable, some not, in Minnesota, North Dakota and Florida.

Hansen said he also found jewelry, coins and collectibles; motorcycles, watercraft and automobiles (including a Bentley that he sold for $138,000); various stock holdings; an ownership interest in a bank, and accounts at up to 10 financial institutions "ranging up to several hundred thousand dollars."

"Unlike the other defendants in this action, Frank Vennes has not at this time been charged with a crime," Hansen wrote. "Mindful of that distinction, I have discussed aspects of my investigation and conclusions with Mr. Vennes and his counsel and have solicited their input as part of my decision-making process. I have consulted with the government in a similar manner."

Hansen said he's assessing whether Vennes or his businesses should assert claims against Petters and his companies in bankruptcy court.

David Phelps • 612-673-7269

  • about this series

  • The Star Tribune's coverage of the federal fraud case against entrepreneur Tom Petters and the struggles of Petters-owned Sun Country Airlines.
  • related content

  • Petters receiver report

    Tuesday December 23, 2008

    Note: The report incorrectly attributes $1.1 million in bank-account proceeds to Michael Catain. The money belonged to Larry Reynolds.

  • Vennes receiver report

    Monday December 22, 2008

  • The Tom Petters fraud case

    Friday November 8, 2013

    The Star Tribune's coverage of the federal fraud case against entrepreneur Tom Petters and the struggles of Petters-owned Sun Country Airlines.

  • Note: The Petters receiver report incorrectly attributes $1.1 million in bank-account proceeds to Michael Catain. The money belonged to Larry Reynolds.

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Tom Petters