Today Begins Trial of Martin Sigillito, Allegedly the Biggest Ponzi Schemer in St. Louis History
|Trial of Bishop Martin Sigillito Begins Today|
Sigillito, an American Anglican bishop, stands accused of running a real-estate investment scam that fleeced wealthy Racquet Club members and regular Joes alike out of some $66 million. If true, that would be the biggest Ponzi scheme in local history, the feds say.
(See our original feature that broke the story and our follow-ups).
A total of 83 witnesses (!!!) are reportedly on the list to testify, and the jury will be faced with so much financial documentary evidence that the government has had to produce "summaries."
Presiding over the trial will be U.S. district judge Linda Reade from Iowa. The Eastern District's bench had to recuse itself upon learning that Sigillito's wife worked as a clerk to Judge Henry Autrey.
Sigillito is represented by Clayton lawyer Doug Roller and a pair of court-appointed defenders, Kevin Curran and Lucille Liggett.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Holtshouser and Richard Finneran from the Eastern District and Jess Michaelsen from the Western are prosecuting the case.
The government's pretrial brief offers the clearest picture yet of what they believe Sigillito did. They call it the "British Lending Program" and summarize it thusly:
Though its attributes are complex, the British Lending Program is, in the end, a simple fraud. Lured by Sigillito's air of confidence and authority, a high rate of return, and the apparent success of their friends and neighbors, investors were induced to give Sigillito their money by lies about the financial condition of the borrower, the riskiness of the investment, and the source of the funds that would be used to pay returns on their investment. Sigillito lulled lenders into thinking their investments were safe by representing returns that did not exist and by paying interest and principal to lenders when they demanded it, so long as he had the funds to cover such demands. In the end, the British Lending Program folded under its own weight, unable to sustain the fees and rates of return for lenders when such minimal profit-making activity had occurred during the period of the fraud.
Below is the pretrial brief:
USA v Sigillito - Govt's Pretrial Brief