Uneven Stephen

The return of "Con Err"

A state grand jury on September 20 indicted Stephen C. Peterson on charges that he stole more than $250,000 from six victims in a scam he ran while on probation for similar charges. The indictment comes in the wake of a New Times story that told how the 59-year-old Phoenix man had been conning people out of their money and property for decades ("Con Err," Paul Rubin, September 14).

The story described how Peterson's county probation officer inexplicably had allowed him to work as a key operative for the Scottsdale "investment" firm of Camero Worldwide Limited. That permission, given in June, countermanded orders issued last October by county court commissioner Carey Snyder Hyatt. Those orders, which Peterson agreed to uphold, barred him from having anything to do with a business.

The New Timesstory showed how Peterson had been running Camero with an enigmatic business partner, Kenneth MacRae, for months even before the officer gave him permission to do so. New Timesspoke with several sources, in and out of Camero Worldwide, who confirmed Peterson had been collecting money from "clients" for months, under the pretext of making them millions almost overnight.

A spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General's Office says the grand jury indicted Peterson on charges of fraud and theft, and for illegally conducting an enterprise. Peterson's wife, Mary, who was arrested with her husband on September 12, was not indicted, the spokeswoman says, but the investigation is continuing.

Stephen Peterson, a twice-convicted felon, burst onto the Arizona white-collar crime scene in the early 1990s, armed with the gift of gab and fake credentials, including an "ambassadorship" in a fictitious financial empire called the Dominion of Melchizedek. During that era, and later, Peterson successfully used legitimate institutions -- including city governments, a governor's office and even the United States Coast Guard -- as unwitting accomplices in his myriad scams.

In his most recent incarnation, Peterson and his minions found potential marks through Internet "venture capital" Web sites, which tout themselves as repositories for investors and those with potential money-making ideas. Peterson told his starry-eyed "clients" that for an up-front fee, he'd fund their projects, and could make them millions of dollars through European-based high-yield "investment programs" into which he allegedly was plugged.

A northern California man, for example, gave Peterson $125,000 to invest earlier this year, under the misguided impression that he'd collect up to $6 million in a matter of months. It didn't happen.

Peterson is being held without bond at the Madison Street Jail.

 
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