James Fry’s first trial was called off in February when co-defendant Frank Vennes Jr. pleaded guilty unexpectedly.
James Fry, the lone remaining defendant charged in connection with the Tom Petters Ponzi scheme, pleaded not guilty Wednesday for a second time after his first trial date in February was upended by the surprise guilty plea of co-defendant Frank Vennes Jr.
Fry entered his plea in federal court in St. Paul before Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Keyes. Fry is now scheduled to go to trial May 14.
The second not guilty plea was the result of a new indictment against Fry that removed the Vennes-related charges.
Fry, former CEO of Arrowhead Capital Management, is charged with securities and wire fraud and making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
According to the charges against him, Fry is accused of teaming up with Vennes to raise funds for Petters’ $3.65 billion scheme and hiding Vennes’s criminal background from investors to avoid scaring them off.
The government contends Fry’s Arrowhead funds funneled more than $500 million into the Petters operation between 1999 and 2008, when the scheme collapsed.
It’s alleged that Fry was aware Petters’ operation was not what it was purported to be — an investment in the purchase of wholesale consumer electronic goods for resale to big box retailers. In reality, no such goods existed, and funds from new investors were used to repay old investors.
Fry’s attorneys have argued that Fry had no idea that Petters was running a Ponzi scheme.
Vennes had a previous financial relationship with Petters when he enlisted Fry into the investment program, the government alleges. During the course of the scheme, Fry made fees and commissions from Petters of $42 million, while Vennes collected more than $100 million.
Vennes likely won’t be sentenced for several months. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he faces a 15-year prison term.
Of the 13 Petters’ associates charged in the case, only Petters has gone to trial. The rest, except Fry, have pleaded guilty to the charges against them.
Petters is serving a 50-year sentence in federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan.
David Phelps • 612-673-7269