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Bergen builder bilks married couple of $500,000

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Michael K. Petersen was already hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt when, prosecutors said, he convinced a Bergen County couple to loan him $500,000 that they’d never see another penny of. The physician and his wife apparently didn’t know that, at that point, Peterson had conned five other people out of $370,000.

Michael K. Petersen

Petersen — who owns and operates Timber Ridge Developers out of Northvale — got probation after admitting he ripped off those investors. A judge might not be so lenient this time, however, if Peterson pleads or is found guilty of scamming the couple who gave him a half-million dollars for what he told them would be a new development in Westwood.

After playing fast and loose — in what essentially was a Ponzi scheme — Petersen, 41, is behind bars at the Bergen County Jail, held on $100,000 bail.

Authorities said he pulled the same stunt in each case, offering forged promissory notes as proof of ownership to get his hands on what is now $837,000 that hasn‘t been returned.

Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said Petersen — after agreeing to repay the full interest and principal — tried giving the couple partial payment in the form of a $50,000 check that ended up bouncing.

This came after he “began putting off the victims with a series of false excuses and would never live up to his promises of getting the victims their money,” Molinelli said.

On Oct. 9, 2009, Petersen met with the victims at their home and “assured them that they would have their money by the end of the month,” the prosecutor said. It wasn’t until this January that they got the rubber check, drawn on Timber Ridge’s account.

When the victims finally got hold of him, “Petersen made no attempt to make good on the funds” that Molinelli said “to this date… have not been paid.”

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