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FBI Wants Wasendorf's 'Pantherized' Car

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - As Russell Wasendorf Sr.'s criminal case winds its way through federal court, his car remains parked in a county facility.

The silver 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier convertible was an example of the Peregrine Financial Group founder's philanthropy before turmoil began to engulf his company last month.

As the alleged charade that kept PFG running began to unravel, the car also became Wasendorf's intended method of demise.

Now the FBI wants the vehicle.

Wasendorf, 64, won the Cavalier, decorated with purple and gold pinstripes and the University of Northern Iowa logo, at a charity auction in April.

On the morning of July 9, his employees found him unconscious behind the wheel of the Cavalier with a tube running from the exhaust into the passenger compartment.

Following the suicide attempt, regulators announced restrictions for PFG, and the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

The Cavalier started off as a prize to benefit UNI sports scholarships, according to Jim O'Conner, a UNI spokesman. A couple donated the car, which had about 30,000 miles on it, to the Panther Scholarship Club, which "pantherized" the vehicle, he said,

"They kind of made it a special edition Panther car ... It certainly would be obvious that person (owning it) was a UNI Panther supporter," O'Conner said.

The vehicle was put up for silent auction during the Rally in the Valley "purple tie" dinner event April 21 at the McLeod Center.

The event usually pulls in about $100,000 annually for athletic scholarships. This was its fourth year, and it the first time a car was offered as a prize. Other prizes included a year of gas, a slot machine and trip to Las Vegas.

Wasendorf Sr. --- a longtime UNI supporter who earlier pledged $2 million to the school's athletics program, and whose companies were also Rally in the Valley sponsors --- submitted the winning bid of $9,000 for the convertible. UNI officials delivered it to him the following day at his myVerona restaurant, O'Conner said.

Following the alleged suicide attempt, carried out behind the PFG headquarters, investigators found a statement signed by Wasendorf allegedly admitting to supplying regulators with false bank statements. They also found some $200 million was missing from the firm's mandatory segregated accounts.

Wasendorf was arrested July 13 for making false statements. He has waived two scheduled detention hearings and remains in jail awaiting trial.

The Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office seized the convertible, and the agency is currently holding it for federal officials.

Authorities at the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on the government's plans for the vehicle.

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