A Plymouth securities broker was charged Monday in a Minneapolis federal court with securities fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering in connection with Trevor Cook's $194 million Ponzi scheme.

Christopher Pettengill, 54, is the third person to be criminally charged in connection with the scheme but may not be the last. The charges were filed by way of "criminal information" rather than indictment, and search warrant documents filed last month suggest that Pettengill is helping the government investigate his former business associates.

Pettengill's attorney, Thomas Heffelfinger, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The charges say that for six months in 2008, Pettengill conspired with Cook and others to pitch a fraudulent foreign currency investment program, which led to losses of more than $150 million for nearly 1,000 investors, mostly retirees. Pettengill used his position as a licensed securities broker to lend credibility to the program, the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement Monday.

He faces up to 10 years in prison on the money laundering charge and five years each on the securities fraud and conspiracy charges.

Pettengill had one-quarter interest at one time in Oxford Global Advisors, one of a number of intertwined entities that Cook and his associates used to pitch a currency investment program that promised risk-free annual returns of 10.5 to 12 percent. The other partners in that firm were Jason "Bo" Beckman, a Plymouth money manager, and Gerald Durand, a former coin salesman from Faribault.

Cook was sentenced in August to 25 years in federal prison. Jon Jason Greco, 40, of Minneapolis, was charged in March with two counts of making false statements to federal agents who were attempting to find some of the loot from the scheme.

Beckman has not been charged, but in March, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused him in court papers of being a leader of the conspiracy and his property was put into a receivership.

Durand hasn't been charged, but was the subject of federal search and seizure warrants last month that relied in part on information provided by Pettengill. Durand, in a July 2009 interview, said he and Pettengill worked together since about 2005 and were launching their own foreign currency investment program when news of the Cook Ponzi scheme broke.

Both men denied wrongdoing at the time. Durand could not be reached Monday for comment but said in January 2009 that he was cooperating with federal investigators.

Pettengill is among heirs to the family that started the Kroger stores; his inheritance included a $3.4 million property in Harwichport, Mass., according to public records.

His ex-wife, Shelley Kathleen Ebner, filed for divorce in May 2010, alleging that Pettengill had "unreasonably depleted and dissipated the marital estate over the last several years in an amount believed to exceed $1 million" without her knowledge or consent. Pettengill yielded to her the Massachusetts property -- valued at $900,000 after mortgages were repaid -- and kept their heavily mortgaged home in Plymouth, valued at $415,000 for tax purposes.

It's unclear what Pettengill has been doing for the past two years. But according to his divorce papers, he was self-employed and expected to earn about $250,000 in 2010. He had interests in several business entities, including Swiss Financial Advisors, Swiss FX Investments, and the Private Financial Group, the papers said.

Pettengill employed Cook early in his career and fired him after learning Cook was under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2003 in connection with another alleged fraud. Asked in 2009 why he'd go back to work with Cook after the FBI investigated, said: "He told me that it was over."

Dan Browning • 612-673-4493