Convicted money launderer and cocaine/gun runner Frank Vennes Jr., a close personal friend and major campaign contributor of Minnesota presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty, has been indicted on federal fraud and money-laundering charges for his alleged role in the $3.5 billion Tom Petters Ponzi scheme.
Vennes became implicated in the Petters Ponzi in 2008. Millions of dollars worth of his assets have been seized and are being liquidated to pay back some of the victims of the multibillion-dollar scam—the largest in Minnesota history. But until now, Vennes had not been charged with a crime for his involvement in the Ponzi scheme, which sent Petters to the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth Federal Prison for 50 years.
If convicted, Vennes could go to federal prison for the second time in his life on such charges—and also be in need of a second presidential pardon.
Besides each taking tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from Vennes and his family, Bachmann and Pawlenty—along with former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman and former Minnesota GOP Chair Ron Ebensteiner—unsuccessfully sought a presidential pardon from President George W. Bush for Vennes’ federal crimes from the 1980s. Vennes donated heavily to Bachmann’s congressional campaign, Pawlenty’s gubernatorial campaign, Coleman’s senatorial campaign, the state House Republican Campaign Committee, the Minnesota GOP and other GOP candidates, all during the time the four Republicans heartily endorsed his candidacy for a pardon.
The timing of Vennes’ largesse has led many to speculate that it was part of a “pay-for-pardon” plot.
Read the whole thing.
Also read Eric Black's article about Vennes at MinnPost.