GO
Loading...

Episode 55: Generous with Other People's Money

Case File

Generous with Other People's Money
Billionaire Tom Petters was a respected CEO for more than a decade. His companies included iconic American brands like Polaroid and Sun Country Airlines. But these legitimate businesses were purchased with dirty money. Petters' reputation was built on a foundation of lies.

Generous with Other People's Money

  • The Golden Boy
  • Minnesota businessman Tom Petters appeared to be at the top of his game. He was the founder, CEO and sole owner of Petters Group Worldwide. He boasted billions in revenue and ownership of 150 companies including Polaroid and Sun Country Airlines. Petters' sterling reputation helped bring in billions of investment dollars from people around the world.
  • The Scam
  • Petters sold promissory notes through his wholesale brokerage firm Petters Company Inc., offering stunning returns of 15 to 20 percent. The company offered financing on the niche business known as diverting. Investors believed PCI was dealing in electronics and consumer goods. But there was no real merchandise bought and sold…and no real profits. Petters was running a con.
  • The Empire Falls
  • For 10 years, PCI secured hundreds of millions of dollars in investments from unsuspecting clients. Petters and a small cadre of employees covered up the scam by forging documents on fake deals. Law enforcement had no idea what Petters was up to until his "Girl Friday" decided to save herself and take her boss down.

Web Extras

  • Rise and Fall of a Multibillion-Dollar Ponzi Scheme Wednesday, 7 Mar 2012 | 12:23 PM ET
    Before anyone had heard of Bernie Madoff, Minnesota businessman Tom Petters carried out the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. His company, Petters Group Worldwide, owned brands like Polaroid and Fingerhut, as well as a controlling share of Sun Country Airlines. As federal agents learned, though, these legitimate businesses were propped up entirely by a $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme. Petters sold promissory notes through his wholesale brokerage firm Petters Co. Inc., offering stunning returns of

    Before anyone had heard of Bernie Madoff, Minnesota businessman Tom Petters carried out the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.

  • Can You Be Ponzied and Not Even Know It? Friday, 24 Feb 2012 | 1:34 PM ET

    We hear about it almost every day—investors across the country are being ripped off through fraud schemes. Learn the warning signs and how to protect yourself against individuals who are only interested in making your money theirs.

  • Tom Petters: Ponzi Scheme     Friday, 24 Feb 2012 | 12:00 AM ET

    Doug Kelley was appointed by the court to handle Petters' company following charges of fraud. He explains how Petters funded over 150 different companies.

  • Tom Petters' Lifestyle     Friday, 24 Feb 2012 | 12:00 AM ET

    Local reporter David Phelps gives us a tour of Tom Petters' lakeside home in Minneapolis.

  • Petters' Trial Exhibits Friday, 7 Sep 2012 | 1:38 PM ET

    Bob White forged more than 10, 000 phony purchase orders, bank statements and other documents to keep the Petters Ponzi going for more than a decade.

  • Petters' Indictment Friday, 7 Sep 2012 | 1:38 PM ET

    Read the government’s charges against Tom Petters in this superseding indictment.

American Greed Showtimes

Murder in Memphis
Saturday, April 26th 1a, 3a ET/PT
Major League Fraud
Thursday, May 1st 8p ET/PT
Naked Greed: Celebrity Scam Artist
Thursday, May 1st 9p ET/PT
Crash for Cash
Thursday, May 1sth 10p ET/PT
Nose No Bounds
Thursday, May 1st 11p ET/PT
Fine Art: A Portrait of Fraud
Thursday, May 1st 12a ET/PT
Blackjack Cheaters
Thursday, May 1st 1a ET/PT
Check the U.S. TV schedule for additional showtimes.
#AmericanGreed

Most Popular Video

Thursday, 24 Apr 2014 | 8:49 AM ET

Today CNBC's Jim Cramer explains why he wishes his charitable trust owned shares of Caterpillar, and shares his thoughts on the government's inability to create jobs.

Thursday, 24 Apr 2014 | 8:16 AM ET

Daniel Ernst, Hudson Square Research, provides perspective on Apple's earnings and growth potential. Apple is really innovating but they haven't done it in three years, Ernst says.

Thursday, 24 Apr 2014 | 8:02 AM ET

Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar chairman & CEO, digs deep into the company's first quarter results and shares his outlook on global sales. CAT reported EPS of $1.44 on revenues of $13.24 billion, beating on both the top and bottom line.