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Webster Groves Man Will Likely Get 40-year Sentence for Ponzi Scheme

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ST. LOUIS (AP) – A suburban St. Louis man who is both a lawyer and clergyman is expected to be sentenced to 40 years in prison next week for his role in a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of more than $56 million.

Formal sentencing is Dec. 28 in Kansas City, Mo., for Martin Sigillito, 63, of Webster Groves. A memo issued Thursday by U.S. District Judge Linda Reade said Sigillito will be sentenced to 40 years without parole and must repay $31 million in restitution. He must also forfeit items such as land in Marthasville, Mo., antique coins, jewelry and books, even six Persian rugs.

A jury in April found Sigillito guilty of 20 federal counts following a four-week trial. A sentencing hearing was in October but the imposition was delayed until this month.

At trial, prosecutors detailed how more than 150 investors were recruited with promises of rich returns through land investments in England. But the money never made it overseas and Sigillito used it to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Sigillito’s attorney, Doug Roller, said his client’s punishment is far harsher than the sentence for Sigillito’s two co-defendants.

James Scott Brown, an attorney from Leawood, Kan., was sentenced in August to three years in prison. Derek J. Smith of the United Kingdom received probation. Both testified against Sigillito as part of plea deals.

“I guess it doesn’t pay to exercise your constitutional right to a jury trial,” Roller said.

But prosecutors characterized Sigillito at trial as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and an “economic predator.” They said the American Anglican bishop, who practiced law in Clayton, Mo., preyed on friends, family and fellow churchgoers.

At trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Holtshouser said the men conspired to create the classic Ponzi scheme, where money from new investors was used to pay off old investors over 10 years, ending in 2010.

Roller argued that Sigillito tried to save the faltering program, even putting more than $700,000 of his own money into it to keep investors’ loans from defaulting.

Reade wrote that Sigillito lived a life of luxury for many years off of his clients’ losses.

“Sigillito’s criminal conduct was calloused and calculating, causing fear and anguish to the people who trusted him,” Reade wrote in the memo.

© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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