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Petters makes tearful plea for shorter prison sentence

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The man serving a 50-year sentence for running the largest financial fraud in Minnesota history appeared in federal court Wednesday morning to ask for reduced prison time.

Tom Petters, 56, appeared in an orange prison jumpsuit and wept in front of Judge Richard Kyle as he made a plea to slash his prison sentence by 20 years, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

After a month-long trial in 2009, a federal jury found Petters guilty of orchestrating a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme. He was convicted of 20 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

Petters finally admitted guilt on Wednesday, FOX 9 says.

"I made horrible mistake," he said. "We were robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Petters says he would have accepted a 30-year plea deal, but claims he wan't aware of a possible deal until after he was sentenced.

MPR says Petters will need to prove a formal offer was made by prosecutors, that his attorneys failed to inform him of a deal and that he would have accepted it, along with showing the trial judge would have approved it.

His attorneys maintain that there was never a plea agreement offered and Petters was not open to plea bargain discussions, FOX 9 said.

The Star Tribune says the hearing in St. Paul could last one more day as Petters is cross-examined by prosecutors.

Petters has been serving his prison sentence at a federal facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. FOX 9 says he will be eligible for release in 38 years.

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Tom Petters breaks silence in exclusive interview from prison

Twin Cities Business sat down with the former Wayzata businessman in Leavenworth Penitentiary, where he's serving a 50-year sentence for his role in a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme. But he sticks with the same story he told a courtroom in 2009: He wasn't involved. He says his associates ran the fraud while he was deeply focused on Sun Country Airlines and Polaroid.