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Deanna Coleman

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Petters whistleblower Deanna Coleman near release

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS
  • Star Tribune
  • July 5, 2011 - 9:14 PM

Deanna Coleman, the whistleblower whose confession brought down the $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme engineered by former Wayzata businessman Tom Petters and others, is back in Minnesota in anticipation of her August release from prison.

Coleman is in the Benton County Jail in Foley, Minn., where she was transferred about three weeks ago from a federal minimum-security camp for women in Pekin, Ill.

Coleman's attorney Allan Caplan characterized the transfer as a transition period for Coleman prior to her release. Caplan said Coleman is now closer to her family in Brainerd.

Coleman, 45, was sentenced to a year in prison last fall as a conspirator for her role in the Petters operation. With a "good time" reduction of a month and a half in her sentence, Coleman will be released on Aug. 26.

Because of her assistance to the government, including wearing a hidden tape recorder, Coleman received a considerably shorter prison sentence than the other principals in the scheme, which imploded less than a month after she revealed its existence to authorities in the fall of 2008. Petters received a 50-year sentence.

U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle praised Coleman for her cooperation with prosecutors but also acknowledged that she was Petters' "No. 1 assistant."

A native of Elbow Lake, Minn., Coleman was hired as Petters' office assistant in 1993 when he was a struggling small businessman. She rose to become vice president of Petters Co. Inc. and played a central role in the fraud that enticed investors to provide funding to purchase nonexistent consumer electronics for sale to big-box retailers.

Coleman shared in the financial fruits of the illegal enterprise with a $1 million home, condos in Costa Rica and season tickets for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

At her sentencing, she apologized and said she did everything she could "trying to make up for what I've done."

David Phelps • 612-673-7269

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