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updated: 7/13/2012 1:57 PM

CEO of troubled Iowa brokerage charged

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  • Russ Wasendorf, Sr., CEO of Peregrine Financial Group, Inc., in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

    Russ Wasendorf, Sr., CEO of Peregrine Financial Group, Inc., in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
    Associated Press/April 4, 2011

Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Federal agents on Friday arrested the chief executive officer of an Iowa-based brokerage firm that is missing more than $200 million in customer money and released the text of a suicide note in which he confesses to embezzling funds from customers for nearly two decades.

Russell Wasendorf, Sr., 64, made false statements to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission about the value of customer funds held by his company, Peregrine Financial Group, Inc., from 2010 until recently, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids.

Wasendorf was arrested by FBI agents on Friday and will appear in federal court in Cedar Rapids for an initial appearance on Friday afternoon, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Wasendorf had been hospitalized at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics after attempting suicide outside the company's headquarters in Cedar Falls on Monday. Court records do not list an attorney for Wasendorf.

According to the criminal complaint, Wasendorf admitted in a suicide note found in his vehicle that he had been stealing from the company for almost two decades.

"Through a scheme of using false bank statements I have been able to embezzle millions of dollars from customer accounts at Peregrine Financial Group, Inc. The forgeries started nearly twenty years ago and have gone undetected until now. I was able to conceal my crime of forgery by being the sole individual with access to the US Bank accounts held by PFG," he wrote in the note, according to court documents.

"No one else in the company ever saw an actual US Bank statement. The Bank statements were always delivered directly to me when they arrived in the mail. I made counterfeit statements within a few hours of receiving the actual statement and gave the forgeries to the accounting department," the note said, according to documents.

Peregrine Financial Group, which marketed itself as PFGBest, filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday. A phone message at company headquarters seeking comment was not immediately returned.

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