• September 18, 2015

ThiefEdina, Minnesota resident Jeffrey Alan Petersen advertised to potential investors on Craigslist and then simply stole the “investors'” money.

The Star Tribune recently reported:

Petersen was arrested in October 2013 after an undercover agent answered one of his ads online, then went to his home posing as a potential investor. After his release a few weeks later, Petersen contacted the agent to see if he was still interested in investing and was arrested again when he accepted a $25,000 check from the investigator, court records show.


It’s hard, sometimes, not to laugh at stupid criminals but criminals destroy themselves, their families, and, of course, they disrupt and sometimes destroy the lives of their victims. That’s not very funny. And it’s pretty clear that some fraudsters have some kind of mental illness, some kind of compulsion. Mr. Petersen seems to have quite a pathetic history. In fact, it is widely recognized that addiction and mental illness are the invisible co-conspirators almost all crimes. See, e.g., Phillip Q. Roche, Criminality and Mental Illness: Two Faces of the Same Coin, 22 U. Chic. L. Rev. 320-324 (Winter, 1955).

Where this theory of criminality as mental illness seems to falter, though, is in the case of more complex financial crimes, where there are many players and shared and varying degrees of culpability. You might have the incorrigible sociopath “mastermind” or “chief architect,” if you like, but then you must also have all kinds of culpable accomplices, side-kicks, middle-men, shills, etc. How can we reconcile a theory of “crime” as “illness” with complicated, coordinated financial frauds? These folks don’t seem to be suffering from some sort of compulsion or a relentless dead sprint to self-destruction…

Although very few of us are afflicted with whatever has infected the brains of constantly recidivating criminals, a recently filed case in U.S. District Court (D. Minn.) — an offshoot of another lawsuit in West Virginia — serves as a reminder that criminality might be more appropriately considered a “spectrum disorder.”

The scam that seems to have stung Ron and Valarie [sic] Reynolds-Resh is complicated but it can actually be summarized quickly: ABC Co. buys worthless property, sells it to XYZ Co. for next to nothing which then sells it the same day for $3 million to victims, Ron and Val. (Ron and Val borrowed money from HSBC to buy the bait. Now HSBC has the unenviable and expensive task of trying to recover its loan from the penniless and/or the perps in court.)

What is complicated about this facially simple scenario is the number of players involved. When you’re scamming in the millions of dollars it’s a lot more complicated than Mr. Petersen’s lame Craigslist play. You’ve got, for example, your crooked appraiser who falsified the appraised value for the second sale. You have the closing agent who’s maybe supposed to exercise some oversight over the sham transaction she’s documenting. You have the folks who front the cash in the first place to buy the “worthless” land. etc., etc. You have all of the supporting paperwork to make this “simple scam” look sufficiently legit for the money to cross the table and for all of the cast of characters to grab their cuts and run.

One target of HSBC’s collection efforts, California company Realty Concepts, Ltd., now seeks to add two Minnesota companies to the party , Upland Real Estate Group, Inc. and Lubecenter Sales, Inc. for their alleged roles in assisting in Realty Concepts’ own employee’s scam (one Andrew Brosnac). It is premature for a spectator like me to reach any opinion as to whether Upland and Lubecenter (or any of the other alleged co-conspirators) were in cahoots with the apparent ringleader, Andrew Brosnac, or were unwitting participants. But in general such cases serve as a reminder that a theory of criminality-as-mental illness has to include some breadth and subtlety to catch every sufferer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *