An Edina man pleaded guilty Friday to stealing more than $330,000 from Minnesota investors he recruited via bogus Craigslist advertisements.
Jeffrey Alan Petersen, 56, pleaded guilty in Hennepin County District Court to 22 counts of securities fraud and theft by swindle, said County Attorney Mike Freeman. Petersen, who was set to go to trial Monday, entered a straight plea instead, allowing for District Court Judge Tanya Bransford to determine his sentence.
Petersen’s attorney is expected to ask for probation, while the prosecutor is seeking nearly a six-year prison term. Sentencing is set for Nov. 23.
An investigation by the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Fraud Bureau found that Petersen used Craigslist ads to lure investors seeking stock options, claiming he had a low-risk strategy and a long history of success, according to the criminal complaint. But Petersen’s securities and insurance licenses had been revoked and investigators couldn’t identify a single client who had profited from his trades.
“People often focus on armed robberies, but there are all sorts of ways to steal money and Mr. Petersen was quite prolific in his swindles,” Freeman said.
Petersen was arrested in October 2013 after an undercover agent answered one of his ads online, then went to his home posing as a potential investor.
After his release a few weeks later, Petersen contacted the agent to see if he was still interested in investing and was arrested again when he accepted a $25,000 check from the investigator, court records show.