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Financier who stole $215 million gets 50 years

| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 9:58 p.m.

DES MOINES — A judge sentenced disgraced financier Russell Wasendorf, the head of Peregrine Financial Group, to 50 years in prison on Thursday for stealing $215 million from more than 13,000 customers over a 20-year period.

Wasendorf, 64, would be at least 107 years old by the time he's eligible for release.

Wasendorf pilfered customer funds to live a lavish lifestyle and expand the business, which prosecutors said was never profitable on its own.

Investor confidence in the sanctity of the $37 trillion futures market was shaken by details of the scam that were contained in suicide notes discovered after Wasendorf's botched attempt to take his own life July 9.

“This is a very serious offense with staggering affects to the victims and ripple effects,” said U.S. District Judge Linda Reade in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “The sentence I impose must be a deterrent to others.”

Federal sentences are only reduced by a maximum of 15 percent for good behavior, which means that Wasendorf must serve a minimum of 42.5 years before being eligible for release. Reade noted that his victims included 13,000 investors and more than 200 employees.

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