Peregrine Financial Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Russell Wasendorf said in a signed statement linked to his suicide attempt that he perpetrated a fraud at hisCedar Falls, Iowa-based company that stretched back two decades, according to a federal complaint.
Wasendorf was charged by U.S. prosecutors with making false statements to federal regulators and is to appear in court later today in Cedar Rapids.
Peregrine filed for bankruptcy a day after the National Futures Association said it identified a shortfall of about $200 million in customer funds on deposit.
Its bankruptcy petition lists more than $500 million in assets and more than $100 million in liabilities. The broker estimates it has more than 10,000 creditors, according to the filing.
The bankruptcy case is Peregrine Financial Group Inc., 12- 27488, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). The regulatory case is U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. Peregrine Financial Group Inc., 12-cv-5383, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois.
1:15 p.m. - CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa --- Court recordings that charge PFG founder Russell Wasendorf Sr. with fraud also includes excerpts of a signed statement that was found in the car where he tried to kill himself Monday.
The signed statement was found alongside two suicide notes, one of which was addressed to his son.
The passages include an admission of fraud and a detailed account of why and how he did it.
Below are parts from the note:
“I have committed fraud. For this I feel constant and intense guilt. I am very remorseful that my greatest transgressions have been to my fellow man. Through a scheme of using false bank accounts 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. 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 statements and gave the forgeries to the accounting department. .... 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, I falsified the very core of the financial documents of PFG, the Bank Statements. At first I had to make forgeries to both Firstar Bank Statements and the Harris Bank Statements. When I choose (sic) to close the Harris Account I only had to falsify the Firstar Statements (elsewhere in the signed statement Wasendorf noted that Firstar “eventually became US Bank”). I also made forgeries of official letters and correspondence from the bank, as well as transaction confirmation statements.
Using a combination of Photo Shop, Excel, scanners, and both laser and ink jet printers I was able to make very convincing forgeries of nearing every document that came from the Bank. I could create forgeries very quickly no one would suspect that my forgeries were not the real thing that had just arrived in the mail.
With a careful concealment and blunt authority I was able to hide my fraud from others at PFG. 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 that I was the sole shareholder. I established rules and procedures as each new situation arose. I ordered that US Bank statement were to be delivered directly to me unopened, to make sure no one was able to examine an actual US Bank Statement. I was also the only person with online access to PFG’s account using US Bank’s online portal. On the US Bank side, I told representatives at the Bank that I was the only person they should interface with.
When it became a common practice for Credited Auditors and the Field Auditors of the Regulators to mail Balance Confirmation Forms to Banks and other entities holding customer funds I opened a post office box. The box was originally in the name of Firstar Bank but was eventually changed to US Bank. I put the address “PO Box 706, Cedar Falls, IA 50613-0030” on the counterfeit Bank Statements. When the auditors mailed Confirmation Forms to the Bank’s false address, I would intercept the Form, type in the amount I needed to show, forge a Bank Officer’s signature and mail it back to the Regulator or Certified Auditor.
When online Banking became prevalent I learned how to falsify online Bank Statements and the Regulators accepted them without question.”