CEO of Peregrine Financial Group pleads guilty to 20-year, $200-million fraud

London, Sep 18 (ANI): Russ Wasendorf Sr., the CEO of Peregrine Financial Group, has pleaded guilty to carrying out a 20-year-long fraud that duped investors and transformed his image from a highly-regarded businessman to one of Iowa's (USA) most notorious corporate criminals.

During a court hearing, Wasendorf, 61, admitted to committing a 200-million-dollar fraud that he first confessed to in a note found on him after an unsuccessful suicide attempt in July, and thereafter, pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud, embezzling customer funds and making false statements to two regulatory agencies, CBS News reports.

Wearing an orange jail-issued jumpsuit, Wasendorf repeatedly answered "yes, your honor" as he admitted guilt to each element of the four felony counts.

Prosecutors said Wasendorf likely would face a recommended minimum sentence of at least 24 years in prison at his sentencing hearing, which hasn't been scheduled yet.

The guilty plea marks the latest step in the stunning downfall of a businessman and philanthropist who was well known in financial circles and a major player in Cedar Falls. It comes as a receiver is dismantling the business empire and image that Wasendorf built over decades to pay back the 24,000 customers who are missing money, the report said.

In his plea agreement, Wasendorf acknowledged that he secretly withdrew customer funds starting in the 1990s and used computers to make phony bank statements to conceal the theft. He then gave fraudulent statements to his accounting department showing fictitious deposits and balances.

Wasendorf also acknowledged using customer money for a range of personal and other business interests, including a Romania real estate firm and the top-notch Italian restaurant in Cedar Falls called myVerona, the report added. (ANI)