Jury Finds a Webster Groves Man Guilty of $52 Million Fraud Scheme
Martin T. Sigillito, 63, of Webster Groves, was found guilty of 20 counts of fraud. Acting U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark says this was one of the “largest fraud schemes in Missouri history.”
Martin T. Sigillito, a Webster Groves man who was an attorney and clergyman, has been convicted in federal court today for stealing more than $52 million in a Ponzi scheme, according to a press release by the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
Sigillito, who operated a law office in Clayton, was charged with 22 counts of fraud in May of last year. The man was found guilty of 20 counts today and has been taken into federal custody.
“This massive Ponzi scheme collapsed under its own weight, as such schemes inevitably do, but not before conspirators stole tens of millions of dollars from their unwitting victims in one of the largest fraud schemes in Missouri history,” said David M. Ketchmark, acting United States attorney for the Western District of Missouri, in the press release. “We are pleased with the jury’s verdict today. Although conspirators squandered most of the ill-gotten gain on their own extravagant lifestyle, we are committed to providing as much restitution as possible to the victim investors.”
From 2000 to 2010, according the press release, investors loaned Sigillito a total of $52.5 million through a Ponzi scheme that was known as the British Lending Program (BLP). While victims believed they were loaning money for legitimate real estate development projects in England, in reality, most of their money was kept by Sigillito and co-defendant James Scott Brown, 67, of Leawood, Kan. Sigillito gained more than $6 million from the fraud scheme and used it to support “an affluent lifestyle,” according to the release.
The jury convicted Sigillito of nine counts of wire fraud and four counts of mail fraud for wiring funds across state lines and for mailing fraudulent documents to lenders as part of his scheme. Sigillito was also convicted of six counts of money laundering of his illegally obtained funds.
A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled, but Sigillito could face up to five years in federal prison without parole for the conspiracy conviction; up to 20 years in federal prison without parole on each count of wire fraud; up to 20 years in federal prison without parole on each count of mail fraud and up to 10 years in federal prison without parole on each count of money laundering, for a total of 325 years in prison.
A court will later determine if Sigillito must return to the government the $52.5 million derived from the offenses. Law enforcement officials have already seized hundreds of antique books, antique maps, antique jewelry, antique coins, Persian rugs and dozens of bottles of liquor, such as champagne and cognac. Officials also seized a vehicle, $19,500 cash, a property in Marthasville, Mo., as well as $19,237 from bank accounts.
"When it comes to Ponzi schemes, the amount of money stolen in this case is the largest in the history of the Eastern District of Missouri," stated Dennis Baker, special agent in charge of the FBI's St. Louis Division, in a previous Patch article. "No matter how elaborate the schemes, they all eventually collapse."
Sigillito is an attorney, an ordained priest and bishop in the church of the American Anglican Convocation. Sigillito maintained an office in Clayton, Mo. The business claimed to provide international business consulting services, but, according to the release, did not have any actual associates or law partners and employed only a single clerical assistant.
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