Petters Whistleblower Coleman Gets One Year

Deanna Coleman, who faced a maximum of five years in prison for her involvement in Tom Petters' Ponzi scheme, has been sentenced to just one year-a light sentence that awarded Coleman for her crucial role in bringing the fraud scheme to an end.

Deanna Coleman, a former executive who blew the whistle on Tom Petters' $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme, was sentenced Thursday morning to one year and one day in prison.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle in St. Paul. Marc Betinsky, a law clerk in Judge Kyle's chambers, confirmed the length of the sentence. He said that the minimum amount of time that Coleman will spend in prison with credit for good behavior is 311 days, or just over 10 months.

“While Deanna Coleman's assistance in the Petters investigation was extremely valuable, she still had to pay a price for her own wrongdoing,” U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said in a statement. “She worked with Petters and others to dupe people out of a lot of money. However, in the end, she did the right thing by bringing this fraud into the light of day, and the sentence imposed reflects this choice of [conscience] over loyalty and greed.”

Coleman is former vice president of operations at now-defunct Petters Company, Inc. Two years ago, she walked into a U.S. Attorney's Office to report the Ponzi scheme. She then collaborated with law enforcement as they recorded important conversations at Petters Company, Inc. Her cooperation also helped in liquidating assets for victims.

Coleman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud for her role in the fraud scheme and provided crucial testimony at Petters' trial.

Last month, prosecutors requested a reduced sentence for Coleman.

She faced a maximum of five years in prison, but prosecutors asked for an unspecified reduction in her sentence based on her role in bringing the Ponzi scheme to an end.

“Her assistance was beyond substantial: It was mission critical to ending the fraud and bringing many of its participants to justice efficiently and effectively,” prosecutors wrote in their request for a light sentence. “Coleman did not simply cooperate in an ongoing criminal investigation. She is one of a very rare breed of cooperating defendants who notify law enforcement of an ongoing fraud in which they are criminally culpable.”

In a separate motion filed around the same time as the prosecutors' request, Coleman asked for a sentence that included no prison time, citing the same arguments that prosecutors did.

Petters, a former Wayzata businessman who maintains his innocence, was found guilty in December of 20 felony counts relating to fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering, for orchestrating a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison in April.

Six other people have pleaded guilty to charges relating to Petters' fraud scheme. Most have cooperated with authorities in the hopes of receiving lighter sentences.