Russell Wasendorf Sr., founder of the bankrupt commodities firm Peregrine Financial Group Inc., pleaded guilty to stealing more than $100m from its customers.
Bloomberg reports that Wasendorf, 64, today admitted to embezzlement, mail fraud and two counts of lying to federal regulators in an appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Wasendorf, dressed in a prison-issue orange jumpsuit, was handcuffed and wearing leg shackles during the hearing. He was taken into custody after U.S. District Judge Linda Reade earlier today stayed Scoles’s ruling that Wasendorf could be released from custody until sentencing.
In response to the judge’s direct questions, Wasendorf replied 'guilty' to each of the four counts. He made no other comment.
The plea agreement calls for a prison sentence of as long as 50 years. Scoles said he would recommend to Reade to accept the plea. Reade will also set a sentencing date.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan told Scoles that Wasendorf could serve a life sentence under federal sentencing guidelines.
Jill Johnston, Wasendorf’s lawyer, said her client could serve 25 to 30 years if he receives reductions under the guidelines.
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