SpongeBob SquarePants

Silver SpongeBob SquarePants coins minted by a private company in New Zealand were among assets seized by FBI agents from Peregrine Financial Group after its chief confessed to nearly 20 years of fraud last week…The coin disclosure adds a new twist to the case of Peregrine Finiancial Group’s CEO Russell Wasendorf Sr., who was arrested last Friday after he confessed to doctoring bank statements to make regulators think his futures brokerage had nearly twice the assets that it did, leaving customers with an estimated shortfall of over $200 million. Peregrine, which operated as PFGBest, filed for bankruptcy protection last week. Peregrine ran a unit called PFG Precious Metals Inc., which offers investors “whole sale prices, fast & fully insured shipping” for gold, silver, and platinum coins, as well as novelty items created through a partnership with the Auckland-based minting firm. [Reuters via DI]

Investors gave Bernie Madoff money because they trusted him. They gave Sam Israel money because they liked him—a gregarious, disarming goofball who, as a Wall Street apprentice, had invented an alter ego he called Captain Proton, a fearless superhero whose special powers were granted by vodka and cocaine. Now in his forties, he lived in a Westchester mansion, rented from Donald Trump for $22,000 a month, with an adjacent chapel in which he had built a replica of the Bayou trading floor alongside an 800-­gallon saltwater fish tank and a menagerie of rare reptiles. He’d also installed a high-end studio for jam sessions, where he’d play with the Allman Brothers’ drummer when the band was in town. He owned a fleet of Porsches and signed personal checks printed with the image of SpongeBob SquarePants…Once he’d welcomed his family home from a short trip standing in the driveway wearing cowboy boots, his wife’s bikini underwear, a lacrosse helmet, swim goggles, a life jacket, and a cape, then started screaming at his wife when she didn’t get the joke. [NYM, related]