ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The man found guilty of orchestrating Minnesota’s largest Ponzi scheme finally admitted on Wednesday that he did it.

Tom Petters was in U.S. District Court in St. Paul on Wednesday trying to get 20 years shaved off his prison sentence.

Petters told the judge, “I wanted to come in here and right the wrongs.”

But prosecutors say his strategy to get fewer years behind bars is just another lie.

After being sent away for masterminding the $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme in 2009, Petters said he would have accepted a plea deal and avoided trial if his lawyers had presented the offer to him.

Petters is now being represented by defense attorney Steve Meshbesher.

Outside court, Meshbesher said, “He has nothing left – he’s facing death and looking at his life, the rest of his life in prison right now.”

Meshbescher argued that Petters’ trial lawyers never told him about a 30-year plea deal that was a possibility from the U.S. Attorney. But under oath, his former attorneys testified that he was told of the deal that was only a possibility and not a firm deal on paper.

Petters said he would have accepted it to avoid a trial, but was only told of the possible offer after he was sentenced in 2009.

Attorney Chris Madel, who argued against the sentence reduction said, “it’s sad that somebody like Petters has to make these allegations against three people who tried so hard to demonstrate his innocence.”

Petters admitted his guilt to Judge Kyle on Wednesday and the 56-year-old fought back tears as he told the judge he “made a horrible mess of things.”

He then testified that he’d lied on the stand out of fear, and that he never wanted to go to trial.

“It’s a horrible excuse, but I lied,” he said. “And I am begging for forgiveness today.”

Judge Richard Kyle has given the attorneys until Nov. 5 to submit their written arguments. He’s expected to rule on the Petters motion in November.

Petters is temporarily at the Sherburne County Jail, but is expected to be returned to Leavenworth prison in Kansas.

Bill Hudson