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Craigslist Swindler Who Cost Investors $330K Sentenced To Prison

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Twin Cities options trader was sentenced to prison time for swindling hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors he found on Craigslist.

Earlier in 2015, 56-year-old Jeffrey Petersen of Edina pleaded guilty to nearly two dozen counts of securities fraud and theft.

In court Monday, a judge sent Petersen to prison for at least four years. It's a case you'll see under a "cameras in the courtroom" pilot project recently approved by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Unless you're a victim, defendant or plaintiff, the majority of us never see the inner workings of our judicial process. WCCO captured on camera first-hand as victims spoke out, and the wrongdoer's punishment was handed down.

"It is clear that the defendant used his position and status to facilitate these crimes, a position of trust and confidence as a fiduciary for his clients," Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Ben Schweigert said.

Petersen sought out his clients on Craigslist, promising big returns in trading stock options. Those investors lost $330,000 to an unlicensed broker with a fabricated track record.

Petersen pleaded guilty to 22 counts of fraud and theft by swindle. With no criminal history, his defense attorney said a more lenient sentence would give Petersen a chance to repay his victims.

"Put him in prison and they get nothing," attorney Jack Rice said.

Petersen apologized, claiming he had a terrible gambling addiction. And vowed to repay victims if given the chance.

"I want to repay but if I go to prison there's no way to do that," Petersen said in court.

Petersen's remorse didn't sway Judge Tanya Bransford, who decided on an upward departure from sentencing guidelines. Petersen will spend at least 53 months in prison, and leave behind a trail of victims fleeced by fraudulent investments. Petersen will also serve concurrent sentences on the other 21 counts to which he pleaded guilty.

"It seems you don't know how to change without correctional consequences," Bransford said.

Bransford additionally ordered Petersen to repay restitution to his victims of nearly $300,000.

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