Peregrine Financial Group founder and CEO Russell Wasendorf Sr. was indicted on charges of lying to regulators, a little over a month after his botched suicide attempt and his signed confession to bilking customers of his brokerage for years.
Wasendorf "overstated the value of PFG’s customer segregated funds by at least tens of millions of dollars" to the Commodity Futures Exchange Commission, according to the indictment, filed in federal court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The indictment carries a possible maximum sentence of 155 years in prison, a $7.75 million fine and 93 years of supervised release following any imprisonment, the U.S. Attorney’s office said (all figures US$).
The public defender representing Wasendorf Sr. could not immediately be reached for comment.
Peregrine, which operated as PFGBest, filed for bankruptcy protection on July 10, one day after Wasendorf Sr. attempted suicide and left a note describing how he had bilked customers of more than $100 million over nearly 20 years.
Using little more than a post office box, laser printers and Photoshop software, Wasendorf Sr. said he forged and intercepted financial statements that were mailed between U.S. Bank, where some Peregrine customer money was held, and the firm’s auditors at the National Futures Association. He also said he spent most of the stolen money to try to keep his brokerage afloat.
PFG boasted customers, affiliates and brokerage offices in more than 80 countries. Its PFG Canada arm, set up in 2002 and headquartered in Mississauga with a separate Bay Street branch in Toronto, has billed itself as the "premiere futures and options firm in Canada."
The U.S. federal indictment does not mention Wasendorf’s alleged misuse of customer money, but only asserts that he misrepresented the value of customer funds from February 2010 to June 2012.
An indictment means a person has been formally charged by a grand jury. Additional charges can be added later, in superseding indictments, as the grand jury continues to weigh testimony and evidence.
The federal probe into Wasendorf Sr. continues and the grand jury hears testimony from witnesses, including Russ Wasendorf Jr., son of the CEO and the company’s president.
"He testified and answered all questions and continues to cooperate with the FBI," said Nicholas Iavarone, Wasendorf Jr’s attorney.
Wasendorf is being held in a county jail and his next appearance for an arraignment has not yet been set, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. — Reuters