Deanna Coleman, the whistleblower in the Tom Petters case, was sentenced Thursday to 12 months and one day for her role in the $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme.
Coleman, the government’s star witness in the case against Petters, was facing up to five years in prison on a single count of conspiracy to commit fraud. Both her attorney and prosecutors asked the judge to reward Coleman for her cooperation.
The one day added to the end of the sentence could actually make Coleman’s sentence even lighter. Convicts must be given a sentence longer than one year to be eligible for time off for good behavior, so Coleman could end up serving less than one year in prison.
On September 8, 2008, Coleman walked into the U.S. Attorney's Office in St. Paul and struck a deal in exchange for her help in taking down what was at the time the biggest fraud in U.S. history.
Just hours after signing this plea agreement, Coleman began secretly recording conversations with her long-time boss, Tom Petters. The tapes became the key evidence that s ent Petters to prison for 50 years.
Hired as a temp, Coleman soon became part of Petters inner circle, what he called his "dream team." Coleman’s was a life few could even dream of, with a big house, luxury cars and million dollar bonuses.
For the last year, she has been working in a modest office in south Minneapolis. She still drives to work in a white Lexus, but soon that will all disappear. As part of her cooperation agreement, all of Coleman’s assets will be turned over to a receiver.
Coleman's co-defendants have yet to be sentenced. Even though they pleaded guilty to their role and testified at trial, none had cooperating agreements with prosecutors and it's unlikely they'll get the same preferential treatment at sentencing.