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Iowa brokerage head gets 50 years for $215M theft

Friday - 2/1/2013, 12:30am  ET

Acting United State Attorney Sean Berry speaks to the media during a news conference to discuss the sentencing of Peregrine Financial Group owner and CEO Russell R. Wasendorf, Sr. at the US District Courthouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. Wasendorf received the maximum sentence of 50 years after pleading guilty to one count each of mail fraud, embezzlement of customer funds by a person registered under the Commodity Exchange Act , making false statements to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and making false statements to a futures association registered under the Commodities Exchange Act. Behind Berry are (left to right) FBI Supervisory Special Agent Mike Kitzmiller, FBI Special Agent Scott Irwin, Special Agent In-Charge of the Omaha Division of the FBI Thomas Metz, Assistant US Attorney Peter Deegan, Asst. US Attorney Matt Cole and Postal Inspector Tina Nobis. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Cliff Jette) MAGS OUT TV OUT MANDATORY CREDIT

RYAN J. FOLEY
Associated press

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) -- For years, Russ Wasendorf Sr. enjoyed the perks of being a successful businessman: a corporate jet, a fancy swimming pool at his mansion, an extensive wine collection and top chefs who made him meals at the restaurant and office buildings he owned.

Then last summer he admitted that his lavish lifestyle was a lie, built with money he stole from customers at Peregrine Financial Group, the Cedar Falls-based brokerage he founded. Prosecutors said he took $215 million over 20 years in the biggest fraud in Iowa history.

Wasendorf is now being held in isolation at a county jail in a tiny cell where he sleeps on a concrete pad without a pillow, his pastor said. And on Thursday, the 64-year-old learned he will most likely spend the rest of his life in federal prison.

A judge sentenced Wasendorf to 50 years in prison. Wasendorf, who must serve at least 42
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