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CEO of PFGBest’s Peregrine Financial arrested, charged

Russ Wasendorf chairman chief executive officer PFGBest. | AP

Russ Wasendorf, chairman and chief executive officer of PFGBest. | AP

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Updated: August 15, 2012 6:05AM

The CEO of Peregrine Financial allegedly admitted in a suicide note that he embezzled more than $100 million from customers in a two-decade scheme he was boldly able to hide through “careful concealment” and “blunt authority.”

“I have committed fraud,” Russell Wasendorf Sr. purportedly wrote in a suicide note that was detailed in a federal affidavit.

Wasendorf, 64, was arrested Friday by federal agents for allegedly making false statements to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission about the value of customer funds held by his Iowa-based brokerage firm.

The suicide note was discovered in Wasendorf’s car after he tried to kill himself outside his office Monday, federal authorities said.

“Through a scheme of using false bank statements I have been able to embezzle millions of dollars of customer accounts. ... I was able to conceal my crime of forgery by being the sole individual with access to the U.S. Bank accounts held by PFG. No one else in the company ever saw an actual US Bank statement.”

PFG was headquartered in Chicago before Wasendorf moved the business to Cedar Falls in 2009.

Wasendorf had been hospitalized at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics after attempting suicide outside the company’s headquarters in Cedar Falls on Monday by hooking up a tube to his car’s tailpipe.

In the statement, Wasendorf allegedly said he felt “constant and intense guilt” for his transgressions.

“I had no access to additional capital and I was forced into a difficult decision: should I go out of business or cheat? I guess my ego was too big to admit failure. So I cheated,” the note read.

Wasendorf allegedly wrote that he falsified bank statements, officials letters and confirmation statements using a combination of Photo Shop, Excel, scanners and laser and ink jet printers.

“With careful concealment and blunt authority, I was able to hide my fraud from others at PFG,” federal authorities said Wasendorf wrote in the note.

“PFG grew out of a one-man shop, a business I started in the basement of my home. As I added people to the company, everyone knew I was the guy in charge. If anyone questioned my authority, I would simply point out I was the sole shareholder.”

Wasendorf was detained at a hearing late Friday afternoon pending his preliminary and detention hearing on Wednesday.

Contributing: Associated Press

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