A trusted church bishop and local attorney is accused of living a decadent lifestyle on the backs of innocent people. Federal prosecutors say Martin Sigillito bamboozled more than 80 victims out of $52 million in a Ponzi scheme.
Many of the people who say Sigillito swindled them out of their life savings are smart people, but federal prosecutors in this indictment say they got conned.
"It makes you feel very stupid, like how could I let this happen?" Stan Kuhlo, one of Sigillito's alleged victims, says.
From the outside Martin Sigillito seemed to have it all: a trusted bishop for the American Anglican Church, an international attorney with an office in Clayton, and a frequent member of the high-brow Racquet Club of St. Louis. But according to the feds, it was built on the backs of honest investors looking for a secure future.
"He had a great reputation, and he used it. He used it for criminal purposes," Phil Rosemann, one of Sigillito's alleged victims, says.
Rosemann socked $15 million into Sigillito's "program."
Kuhlo says it forced him out of retirement when he lost his savings to Sigillito's alleged scam.
"He took a sizable amount of my savings, so how am I going to make this money back?" Kuhlo says.
He even trusted Sigillito with his inheritance and got his sister on board.
"That's what really bothered me the most," Kuhlo says. "My parents worked all their lives to give their kids some money, and then this guy took that money."
Here's how the deal was supposed to work: investors like Rosemann and Kuhlo made personal loans to Sigillito and were supposed to gain interest from them. In turn, Sigillito would serve as a middle man and raise funds for a fee. That money would then go to a real estate developer in England. But investors say they never saw a dime.
Rosemann says he realized there was a serious problem when he wanted to get some of his money back -- something that was allowed under the contract he'd signed with Sigillito.
"I just couldn't get it back," Rosemann says. "It took forever -- weeks and then months, and then I had to file a lawsuit and say 'this is ridiculous'."
That, among other peculiarities, got the feds' attention. They seized several of Sigillito's prized possessions like rare books, coins, jewelry and liquor that is believed to have been purchased with other people's money.
"He didn't care," Rosemann says. "And this guy's a bishop. It's pretty infuriating actually."
Both Rosemann and Kuhlo are part of a civil lawsuit against Sigillito. There are three currently on file, representing about 80 alleged victims.
"The fact that he's out walking around doesn't sit well with me at all," Rosemann says. "It irritates me gravely that he's not sitting in a hole right now because he hurt a lot of people badly, and he knew it."
News 4 has a call into Sigillito's attorney for comment.
*Photos of Sigillito come courtesy of the Riverfront Times.