A former Petters Co. Inc. officer and consultant from Excelsior was charged Tuesday in federal court with mail fraud and illegal monetary transactions.

Robert Dean White, 67, was charged by federal prosecutors rather than by grand jury indictment, a process that generally indicates a plea agreement is in the offing. If that fails to occur, White could still be indicted.

Federal investigators say in court documents that White created false purchase orders to facilitate a far-reaching fraud scheme that earned him millions of dollars but bilked well over $100 million from investors since 1995.

One of those under investigation was heard saying that the alleged fraud exceeded $2 billion, according to an FBI agent's sworn statement filed to obtain search warrants.

White is the first associate of Twin Cities CEO Tom Petters to be publicly charged since federal investigators combed offices at Petters Group Worldwide headquarters and elsewhere.

The charges filed Tuesday say that White fabricated documents to memorialize certain purchases of merchandise that never took place. The merchandise was used to secure promissory notes and to lure investors, the government says.

The charges do not name the companies or individuals involved with White. But taken together with other documents, they leave no doubt that the charges relate to the Petters investigation.

The illegal monetary transaction count says that White deposited a $500,000 check into his own account at First Minnesota Bank, knowing the proceeds derived from mail fraud.

White was secretly recorded describing the operations of Petters Co. Inc., a financing entity, as a "Ponzi scheme," the affidavit says. He also discussed cleaning out his office because he was worried about it.