Reader’s Digest Names St. Cloud Man MN’s Most Notorious Criminal
So much for Minnesota Nice!
Minnesota is generally a wonderful state filled with wonderful people. There's a reason we've been given (or did we claim?) the mantra "Minnesota Nice," after all. That said, there's always going to be a bad apple in the bunch, and the North Star State is not without some of its own.
Take, for instance, Isadore Blumenfeld also known as Kidd Cann. A Minnesota gangster who ran a successful bootlegging operation during Prohibition and is said to have defrauded the Twin City Rapid Transit Company of millions during the switch from streetcars to buses, Kidd Cann was labeled by the FBI as “the overlord of the Minneapolis, Minnesota underworld.” And then, of course, there's Luke Helder, also known as the "Happy Face Bomber," "Smiley Face Bomber" and "Midwest Pipe Bomber." A native of Pine Island, MN he was captured in Reno, NV after planting pipe bombs in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas; only five in Iowa detonated before being found, injuring six people.
While arguments could be made as to who's the most villainous Minnesotan of them all (Minnesota Fun Facts includes an extensive list of notorious individuals), Reader's Digest jumps straight to the worst of them all. A 2021 article lists The Most Notorious Criminals in Every State. There's no clarification or criteria for those who made the list, they're just named and shamed. So who's Minnesota's most nefarious, according to Reader's Digest? None other than St. Cloud's own Ponzi Scheme artist Tom Petters.
"While Minnesotans are known for being nice," says Reader's Digest, "there’s no denying Minnesota native Tom Petters, who was convicted of a $3.65 billion dollar Ponzi scheme, did not fit the bill—though he did donate a lot of his ill-gotten gains to charity. He’s currently serving a 50-year sentence in Leavenworth."
While other sources cite Petter's Ponzi Scheme as netting only 1.9 billion dollars, his is considered "one of the largest and most complex Ponzi schemes in U.S. history.” Over the course of 13 years, Petters and additional defendants established over 150 real and fake businesses -- including buying up Sun Country Airlines and Polaroid Corp. -- ultimately swindling investors out of money to pay back earlier investors and friends and to fund a lavish lifestyle. The Wayzata businessman (born in St. Cloud) was found guilty of all counts in 2009 and is currently an inmate at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.