National Roundup

Assets recovered from large Ponzi scheme reach $722 million

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A bankruptcy trustee's search to recover assets linked to one of the largest financial crimes in Minnesota's history has netted $722 million.

Doug Kelley says his work to collect assets from Tom Petters' $1.9 billion Ponzi scheme is nearly done 13 years after the search began.

A motion filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis last week shows the amount recovered and returned to victims and creditors, the  St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

"We can see the light at the end of the tunnel here," Kelley said. "It has been a long and arduous process that was at times bumpy, but I am quite pleased with the collective return of $722 million."

Petters, now 63, was indicted in 2008 on multiple counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy for operating the scheme which spanned 26 countries, including the the Cayman Islands, Germany and Switzerland.

A federal jury found him guilty on all counts and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He is currently an inmate at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Kelley said just four or five cases remain, including one filed against the Bank of Montreal in Canada.

As part of his sentence, Petters was ordered to forfeit assets gained through the Ponzi scheme, including bank and investment accounts, vehicles and real estate. More than 300 lawsuits were filed to recover other profits.

Feds say former candidate threatened wife's divorce lawyer

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A former Delaware political candidate who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nominations for governor and U.S. Senate has been charged with mailing death threats to a lawyer who represented his wife in a divorce case, according to federal court documents unsealed Monday.

Authorities allege that Michael Protack, who now lives in Seal Beach, California, mailed a death threat to Delaware lawyer Patrick Boyer in January. Protack allegedly followed up with a March letter containing a graphic image of a mutilated body, they said.

The unsigned January letter was addressed to "Boyer, Little Boy," with a return address of the "Viper Association" at a Wilmington post office box, according to an FBI affidavit accompanying a search warrant application filed last week.

"The VIPERS are coming for you. We all have military experience and have no fear of the outcome," the letter states. "You are a coward who will regret his actions. Count on being dead by June 2021. You won't know when, where or how but your end has been written. Take the time and put your affairs in order because they will not find your body for weeks."

Protack, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2004 and 2008 and narrowly lost the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in 2006, did not immediately respond to email and phone messages Monday. A telephone message left with the federal public defender's office in Delaware also was not immediately returned.

In an email to The Associated Press, Boyer thanked law enforcement officials for "their skill and dedication in addressing this matter" but declined further comment.

According to the affidavit, Boyer began representing Mary Ann Protack in divorce proceedings in 2018 and helped her obtain "protection from abuse" or PFA, orders against Protack.

"I could shoot you in the head and spend the rest of my life in jail happy about it," Protack allegedly told his wife at one point. The affidavit added he also allegedly once told her, "Someone is going to die today."

The divorce proceedings appear to have started around the same time that Protack, an airline pilot who served in the Marine Corps, was notified that Delta Airlines intended to terminate him. In a federal lawsuit filed in January 2018, Protack claimed that Delta had harassed and bullied him for years over his union activity and repeatedly questioned his physical and mental fitness after he was injured in a hit-and-run incident in 2012. The lawsuit also claims Delta unfairly portrayed Protack as "obstructionist" for refusing to submit to a psychiatric examination.

The case was dismissed early last year after being transferred from California to Georgia. Protack filed a similar lawsuit, without an attorney, earlier this year. A federal magistrate in Georgia recommended last Friday that the second lawsuit also be dismissed because of Protack's failure to properly serve the defendants.

Meanwhile, according to the FBI affidavit, Protack's estranged wife began receiving "demeaning" post cards in August 2018.

Following a trial on July 31 last year, Protack was found in contempt of court for violating a PFA order by harassing his estranged wife with anonymous communications. The court entered a lifetime PFA order against Protack, declaring him "an immediate and ongoing danger" to his estranged wife.

Federal officials say the harassing letters to Mary Ann Protack coincide with the delivery of anonymous, harassing letters to Boyer and his law partners, usually coinciding with adverse court rulings or proceedings against Protack. Weeks before receiving the death threat, for example, Boyer filed a contempt motion against Protack regarding the marital residence, authorities said.

Authorities said the death threat and a harassing letter received by Protack's estranged wife that same day were postmarked out of Wilmington on Jan. 5, and that rental car records indicate that Protack was in Delaware from Jan. 2 to Jan. 4. Investigators said they determined that the postage stamps used had been purchased at a Wilmington post office in August 2019 with a debit card issued to Protack's girlfriend, Candace Anzaldo.

Authorities obtained an indictment against Protack last Thursday charging him with two counts of mailing threatening communications, once in early January and again in late February. Less than an hour after the indictment was filed, authorities filed an application for a warrant to search Anzaldo's home in historic New Castle and to seize computers, electronic storage media, bank records, papers and other potential evidence.

Anzaldo took a message from an AP reporter trying to contact Protack on Monday but did not immediately respond to a later telephone message seeking any comment she might have.