U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery on Tuesday approved more than $1 million in payments to attorneys doing legal work for Petters Group Worldwide and certain of its affiliates in bankruptcy, as well as for criminal defense work for Tom Petters and several associates charged in a massive investment fraud scheme.
Montgomery also approved payment of $313,490 to two law firms representing Frank Vennes Jr., a Petters' business associate who has not been charged but whose assets are nonetheless covered by the receivership.
Noting that some of the lawyers' fees seemed high, Montgomery cited the "incredibly complicated and complex sequence of events" surrounding the case to explain her approval of hourly rates that ranged from $165 to $750. Receiver Doug Kelley had recommended approval. Most of the work took place in October, but some occurred in early November.
In other matters related to the Petters case, convicted defendant Larry Reynolds of Los Angeles got relief Tuesday from home detention so he can attend family events during the holiday season. And convicted defendant Michael Catain obtained approval to sell his car wash in Excelsior. The sale is expected to net between $650,000 and $700,000, which will be placed with Kelley as he tries to recover assets for the corporate estate.
Tom Petters, owner of Petters Group Worldwide and myriad other companies, has pleaded not guilty to a 20-count indictment accusing him of leading a $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme since the mid-1990s. Four associates have pleaded guilty to participating in the alleged fraud; a fifth, Petters' tax accountant, pleaded guilty to tax charges.