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Founder of Iowa brokerage is sentenced to 50-year prison term for embezzling customer funds

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FILE - This Monday, April 4, 2011 file photo shows Russ Wasendorf, Sr., CEO of failed Peregrine Financial Group, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Wasendorf is expected to be sentenced Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 to prison for embezzling up to $215 million in funds that were supposed to be held separately to protect investors. (AP Photo/Waterloo Courier, Rick Chase, File) (The Associated Press)

A judge has sentenced Peregrine Financial Group Inc. founder Russ Wasendorf Sr. to 50 years in prison for stealing $215 million from investors and concealing his theft for 20 years.

U.S. District Judge Linda Reade said at Thursday's sentencing hearing in Cedar Falls that Wasendorf knowingly caused "staggering losses" to investors, employees and creditors that grew larger over 20 years.

She says Wasendorf lacked the courage to stop his fraud sooner and admit his company was a failure from its inception in the early 1990s.

Prosecutors say Wassendorf victimized more than 13,000 customers.

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