Trial Begins for Final Petters Co-Conspirator

Trial Begins for Final Petters Co-Conspirator

The trial for James Fry, who pleaded not guilty to charges related to Tom Petters’ Ponzi scheme, is reportedly expected to last two to three weeks.

The federal trial of James Fry—the last foreseeable defendant tied to Tom Petters’ $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme—began Monday.

Fry was charged in 2011 for alleged securities fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission during its investigation of his company, Minnetonka-based hedge fund Arrowhead Capital Management. He was charged along with Frank Vennes, who allegedly served as one of Petters’ primary fundraisers.

Fry pleaded not guilty soon after being indicted, and Vennes also initially denied the charges—but he did an about-face in February, making a last-minute guilty plea right before his and Fry’s trial was set to begin.

A new indictment was subsequently filed against Fry, this time with the charges against Vennes removed. Fry again denied the charges against him, and his trial was moved back to this month.

Other than Petters, who is serving a 50-year prison sentence, Fry is reportedly the only defendant in the case to go to trial. His defense has been that Vennes directed all investments between his Arrowhead Capital Management funds and Petters, according to a report by the Star Tribune. Vennes is expected to be a witness during the upcoming trial before U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle, which is likely to last two to three weeks, the Minneapolis newspaper reported. Deanna Coleman, a top Petters leader during the Ponzi scheme who eventually blew the whistle on the fraud, may also reportedly serve as a witness.

Petters, meanwhile, recently asked for a new sentencing hearing, saying his sentence should be thrown out because his former attorney allegedly withheld information about a plea offer.

Based on the first day of trial, it appears that Fry's defense will be that he was duped by Petters. Defense attorney Joe Friedberg said Fry’s judgment when he invested with Petters was clouded “under ether provided by Tom Petters” who engineered “the Pulitzer Prize of Ponzi schemes” that only a handful of Petters’ closest associates knew about, according to the Star Tribune.

To read the full Star Tribune story, click here.