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Attorney-Priest-Ponzi Man|Gets 40 Years in Prison

ST. LOUIS (CN) - The attorney-priest who orchestrated the largest Ponzi scheme in local history will be sentenced to 40 years in prison on Dec. 28, a judge said.

Martin Sigillito, 63, was a lawyer and an American Anglican bishop.

He coerced family members, fellow churchgoers and friends from his country club to invest in the British Lending Program. Sigillito claimed the money would go to real estate investments in the United Kingdom, with little risk with high rates of return.

In reality, the BLP grew into a $52 million Ponzi scheme that collapsed in 2010.

A federal jury in April convicted Sigillito of 20 felony counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

U.S. District Judge Linda Reade calculated that when BLP collapsed, 111 investors were owed roughly $56 million.

Sigillito used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle. His assets included antique books, papers and rare coins, a $1,200 bottle of cognac and a lamp dating to 34 B.C.

In the sentencing memo, Reade acknowledged that 40 years is tantamount to a life sentence for Sigillito. She punished him more severely than federal guidelines suggest due to the scope of the fraud, abuse of his victims' trust and the judge's belief that Sigillito lied to the jury during trial.

"Sigillito's criminal conduct was calloused and calculating, causing fear and anguish to the people who trusted him," Judge Reade wrote. "Sigillito has not taken responsibility for the economic and emotional damage that he has caused to his victims. The majority of the victims of this scheme are of an age and station in life where they will never be able to earn their way back to where they were before they got mixed up with the BLP. It is a certainty that proceeds from the forfeiture of the assets of Sigillito and his co-conspirators will not begin to make the victims economically whole. It has become necessary for many victims to scale down their lifestyles, which had never been extravagant before they invested in the BLP. Sigillito had many years of prestige, luxury and comfort at the expense of the victims. A significant sentence is appropriate to reflect the nature and circumstances of the offenses and the seriousness of the offenses, provide just punishment to Sigillito, promote respect for the law and serve as a deterrent to Sigillito and to others who might be tempted to engage in similar conduct.

"The court is aware that, because Sigillito is sixty-three years old, a forty-year sentence has the effect of a life sentence. Even with maximum credits of fifty-seven days per year after service of each year of incarceration, Sigillito is unlikely to be out of prison before he expires of natural causes. In this case, there is little to no practical difference between a forty-year sentence, a sentence of 325 years and a life sentence. To impose a term of imprisonment of the maximum of 325 years would serve no purpose other than to provide a dramatic headline."

Reade, of the Iowa bench, presided over the case because judges in St. Louis recused themselves. Sigillito's wife is a law clerk for a federal judge here, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Kansas attorney James Scott Brown, 67, of Leawood, was sentenced in August to 3 years in prison and ordered to pay $34 million in restitution for his role in the scam.

In the May 2011 indictment , an FBI agent called it the largest Ponzi scam in the history of the Eastern District of Missouri.

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