CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal judge ruled late Tuesday that Russell Wasendorf Sr., who pleaded guilty last month to embezzling $200 million from customer accounts and making false statements to regulators will, remain in custody pending his sentencing.
U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade said in her ruling that Wasendorf failed to prove he wasn’t a flight risk and failed to prove that he doesn’t have the means to flee.
Wasendorf attempted to end his life and wasn’t willing to face the consequences of his actions, and although he has cooperated with the government, he didn’t have much choice or chance of success with a trial because of his “incriminating” suicide note, according to the ruling.
Wasendorf, 64, former Peregrine Financial founder, faces a long sentence and will spend the majority of the remainder of his life in prison, which gives him a “strong incentive to flee,” Reade said.
Reade said the court also is not satisfied that Wasendorf doesn’t have the money to flee. The receiver has secured most of his known assets but not all of the misappropriated funds between $100,000 and $200,000 are accounted for. Wasendorf also has some foreign business holdings, and the receiver hasn’t been able to secure these assets.
Reade cites the Bernie Madoff case, saying Wasendorf failed to “prove by clear and convincing evidence that he is not a flight risk.” In the Madoff ruling concerning detention, the district court found detention was warranted in light of his age, 70, the length of a potential sentence, 150 years, and that he had means to flee, according to the ruling.
A magistrate issued an order last month granting Wasendorf’s request for release pending sentencing, but the government appealed to Reade. Wasendorf was to be released to stay with his pastor and friend at her home in Marion.
Wasendorf pleaded guilty last month to mail fraud, embezzlement of customer funds, making false statements to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and making false statements to a futures trading association. He faces up to 50 years in prison, if a judge runs the sentences consecutively, and $3.2 million or more in fines, an undetermined amount of restitution and $100 million in forfeitures, according to the plea agreement.
Wasendorf admitted to stealing more than $200 million from customer funds for more than 20 years, as was described in a suicide note and signed statements police recovered last month, and to authorities after being charged. He also admitted in the plea to making false statements to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a futures trading association. Also the plea deal, he admitted to overstating the value of customer funds in a monthly report in May 2012 and to forging bank account information, submitted to regulators in May 2011.
In the suicide note and signed statements, Wasendorf said he was able to conceal the crime by being the only individual to have access to the company’s bank accounts and being the only person who saw the actual bank statements.