Trial of Bishop Martin Sigillito Begins Today
The criminal trial of Martin Sigillito
begins today, and it's going to be a doozy -- the federal Eastern District of Missouri has set aside four full weeks for it.
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