ST. LOUIS (CN) – A grand jury accused two attorneys – one of them a priest – and a British real estate speculator of running a $52 million Ponzi scheme. An FBI agent called it the biggest Ponzi scam in the history of the Eastern District of Missouri.
Martin T. Sigillito, 62, of Webster Groves, Mo., James Scott Brown, 66, of Leawood, Kan., and Derek J. Smith, 67, of Oxfordshire, are charged in a 22-count indictment.
“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,” the FBI’s Agent in Charge in St. Louis, Dennis L. Baker, said in a statement.
Prosecutors say that from 2000 to 2010, U.S. investors loaned $52.5 million to Smith through the British Lending Program. Lenders believed they were loaning money for legitimate real estate developments, but Sigillito and Brown kept most of the money, or used it to pay interest and principal to other lenders, the indictment states. Prosecutors say Sigillito, an ordained priest and bishop in the church of the American Anglican Convocation, reaped nearly $8 million from the scheme and used it to support an affluent lifestyle.
In addition to conspiracy, Sigillito is charged with nine counts of wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud and six counts of money laundering. A forfeiture count would require Sigillito to forfeit $52.5 million to the government, as well as personal property, including hundreds of antique books, maps, jewelry, coins, and artifacts, six Persian rugs, dozens of bottles of cognac champagne, whiskey and wine, a 2006 Volvo S40 and a residential property in Marthasville, Mo.