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Teen Challenge Received Money from Peters Company Ponzi


Teen Challenge Received Money from Peters Company Ponzi Scheme

Frank Vennes Jr., born-again ex con who served on the board of Teen Challenge MN, was a fraudster and money launderer. According to a federal search warrant affidavit, Vennes helped convince five investors to put $1.2 billion into Petters's companies, which won Vennes more than $28 million in commissions. Previously Frank Vennes Jr. had spent five years in prison for charges of illegally selling a firearm, using a phone to distribute cocaine, and money laundering, but claimed to be rehabilitated after finding God. Frank Vennes found guidance from evangelical Christian ministry while in prison and then upon leaving prison found support from the Assemblies of God run residential treatment facility Teen Challenge in Minnesota. The Directors of Teen Challenge MN knew about his previous convictions for money laundering, drug dealing and gun running but they still placed him in charge of financial affairs for Teen Challenge MN and for fund raising activities. Congressman Michele Bachmann had received many thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Frank Vennes, his family and lawyer/lobbyist G. Craig Howse. In a letter to the Office of Pardon Attorney dated Dec. 10, 2007, a year after she was elected, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann wrote requesting a presidential pardon for Frank Vennes Jr., she stated in that letter to then President George W. Bush that Fidelis Foundation was "backed" by Frank Vennes Jr. and Bachmann stated that a Presidential pardon of Vennes would be "good for society".:

“As a U.S. Representative, I am confident of Mr. Vennes’ successful rehabilitation and that a pardon will be good for the neediest of society,” Bachmann wrote. “Mr. Vennes is seeking a pardon so that he may be further used to help others. As I know from personal experience, Mr. Vennes has used his business position and success to fund hundreds of nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping the neediest in our society. The Fidelis Foundation, backed by Mr. Vennes, has directed over $10.7 million in total gifts in the last three years, and the Fidelis Foundation has ranked #6, #9 and #7 as the largest grant-making foundation in Minnesota over the past three years.”

The appearance of Vennes’ success was a mask for a tangled financial web of lies. As a member of the Teen Challenge board as well as the financial committee, Frank Vennes reviewed the investment proposal with Petters’ business. Following a federal investigation, by Julio La Rosa, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the St. Paul IRS field office, Petters was convicted by a jury of masterminding a scheme that cost investors more than $3.5 billion. Frank Vennes was a broker for investors in Petters’ companies. Petters functioned as a venture capitalist and by attracting investment from hedge funds and individuals. Petters acquired Sun Country Airlines and Polaroid Corporation which are now in bankruptcy. Pretending they were selling real items such as electronic equipment, Petters and his colleagues took investors money for their own gain.. In 2009 Thomas Petters was found guilty, in front of U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle, on all 20 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

Specifically, Thomas Petters was found guilty on the following charges:

10 counts of wire fraud
3 counts of mail fraud
1 count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud
1 count of conspiracy to commit money laundering
5 five counts of money laundering.

Teen Challenge MN asserted the money invested in Petters Co. was given through a single contributor,the Fidelis Foundation. Fidelis Foundation is a public charity that acts as an investment agent on behalf of other public charities and nonprofits, including Teen Challenge. The Fidelis Foundation claims it is facing losses in the bankruptcy case of up to $27.6 million in Petters Co. notes. Fidelis Foundation, a Minnesota religious charity, had $27.6 million invested in eight promissory notes from Petters Co. backed by fictitious purchase orders. The Fidelis Foundation investment debt originally came from loans from the Harvest Foundation. The Harvest Foundation was the entity that initially loaned Frank Vennes $10,500,000 in 2001 and 2002.

Frank Vennes Jr. was a major financial contributor to Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann quickly distanced herself and withdrew the letter of support for a presidential pardon she had written for Vennes claiming that she may have too hastily accepted his claims of redemption. But she was not the only politican to receive money from Frank Vennes. Minnesota politicians, who were scrambling to jettison campaign cash donated by those involved in the fraud scheme, included Norm Coleman, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Pawlenty, Jim Oberstar, and Elwyn Tinkenberg.

Thomas Petters had major holdings in Sun Country Airlines, Polaroid and other companies. As the criminal case developed, several of Petters' companies were put into receivership and 10 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (see list below).

Additional Information:, Petters case back in court, By DAVID PHELPS, Star Tribune, Last update: March 15, 2011, Part 3: Tom Petters: Giving that hurts, Charities that invested with Tom Petters dropped the ball when it came to making wise choices with donated funds, experts say. By DAVID SHAFFER, Star Tribune, Last update: October 27, 2008 - 11:54 PM
Audit firm sued over Metro Gem assurances, June 1, 2009 Star Tribune
The suit claims auditors failed to examine the business dealings of Frank Vennes Jr.'s company. ‘Dirty money’: MN Teen Challenge returned Bachmann’s contribution, By Karl Bremer, Minneosota Independent, 4/20/09

Vennes got pardon letter from Bachmann same month he saw Petters fraud,
By Chris Steller , Minnesota Independent, 1/11/09

Bachmann’s office claims she donated at least one Petters-tainted campaign contribution to charity, By Karl Bremer, Minnesota Independent, 10/16/08
Federal officials: Petters tied to multi-billion dollar fraud scheme
By David Phelp and Liz Fedor, Star Tribune, September 26, 2008 ... 6989.shtml
Developer Kuhn sues business partner, Published Thursday, August 9, 2007 The Florida Times Union
Reformed convict part of Petters probe, Millionaire Frank Vennes Jr. once gave inspirational talks to prisoners but is now under investigation.
By Jon Tevlin, Star Tribune October 4, 2008 - 8:27 PM ... frank.html Sunday, November 7, 2010 by Karl Bremer, Michele Bachmann's pardon pal Frank Vennes Jr. wants out of Petters Ponzi mess, Was post-election filing of plan to settle with investors politically motivated? Affidavit: Vennes knew of Petters fraud, David Phelps, Star Tribune, Jan. 10, 2009, Frank Vennes Jr., a Shoreview businessman who recruited investors for Tom Petters, found out something was amiss nine months before authorities moved in. Now they want access to his e-mail. Witnesses saw signs of fraud in 2000, Oct. 30, 2009, Star Tribune, David Phelps, With a subsidiary struggling to repay debt, Tom Petters wrote checks that bounced, GE exec Jack Marrone testified.

'Petters: 'It's not just me who knew', Nov. 4, 2009, Star Tribune, David Phelps, In a tape played for the jury, Tom Petters says he and his associates committed a fraud. Petters' woes haven't stopped his charity group, Sept. 2, 2009, Star Tribune, David Phelps, Separate from the businessman's fallen empire, the John T. Petters Foundation still awards scholarships -- it just keeps a lower profile.
Sketchy profile emerges for key player in Petters probe, March 3, 2009, David Phelps, A Los Angeles businessman who laundered money for Tom Petters' alleged Ponzi scheme may be in the government's witness security program. Sun Country seeks loan from a Petters company
Sun Country Airlines, in a motion filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, is seeking court approval to obtain short-term financing from a Petters Aviation company to help the carrier pay its bills until next spring. Star Tribune, Nov. 25, 2008 Mansion of Petters associate for sale; proceeds will be held
Frank Vennes Jr., a Shorewood businessman, got court approval to sell his Florida mansion for $5.8 million. A three-bedroom house in Bismarck, N.D., has already sold. # Part 1: The collapse of the Petters empire, Star Tribune,October 26, 2008 David Phelps,
Tom Petters, accused of massive investment fraud, has been a salesman since his youth. "He could talk your wallet right out of your pocket," a former boss says. # Part 2: Burned: The human toll of the Petters case, Star Tribune, David Phelps,
Flight attendants, hedge funds and retirees are caught in the wake of the federal probe. "I'm trying not to cry," said a woman who may have lost $100,000 in savings. Oct. 27, 2008 # Part 3: Tom Petters: Giving that hurts, Star Tribune, David Phelps,
Charities that invested with Tom Petters dropped the ball when it came to making wise choices with donated funds, experts say. # Part 4: Petters fraud case shakes foundations, Star Tribune,October 29, 2008, David Phelps
The future of the Thomas J. Petters Family Foundation is in doubt, and Another named for his son is bracing for fallout from the investment fraud investigation.

Thanks for wonderful link!!!

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