Russell Wasendorf Sr., the chief executive of the futures brokerage firm Peregrine Financial Group, admitted that he stole more than $100 million from his customers, prosecutors say. The formal charges, brought by federal prosecutors in Iowa, accuse him of lying to government regulators.
“I have committed fraud,” said the note. “For this I feel constant and intense guilt.”
In his note, Mr. Wasendorf laid out how for nearly 20 years he had forged false account statements from U.S. Bank to embezzle millions of dollars from his customers at Peregrine, which also did business as PFGBest. Though it had nearly 150 employees, Mr. Wasendorf said that he alone committed the crime.
Mr. Wasendorf was a local hero in Cedar Falls. He started his business there in the late 1960s after graduating from the University of Northern Iowa. Peregrine migrated to Chicago but in 2009, Mr. Wasendorf moved the headquarters back to Iowa.
After Mr. Wasendorf’s unsuccessful suicide attempt — he had run a hose from the car’s tailpipe into its interior — regulators discovered about $215 million in customer money was missing.
Peregrine’s supposed bank statement with U.S. Bank said it had $221 million in customer funds, but when law enforcement officials checked with U.S. Bank, there was only $6.3 million in the firm’s account.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed civil fraud charges against Peregrine and effectively shut the firm.
Futures brokerage firms like Peregrine match buyers and sellers of contracts for commodities, charging a thin commission for the service. Peregrine’s clients include farmers who use such contracts to protect themselves from large price fluctuations.
He said that he became an expert in forging the statements.
Mr. Wasendorf expressed a similar sentiment.