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He holds a bachelor's degree in classics from the University of Missouri-Columbia, a master's in European history from Cornell University and a law degree from Saint Louis University. He's a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a former Woodrow Wilson fellow.
He claims to lecture annually at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. But the university never employed him: He taught there as a visiting instructor for a summer program in Continuing Legal Education through the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
He was consecrated as a bishop in 2003. Stajduhar says he liked showing people his bishop's ring.
One Chesterfield couple, Barbara Otterson and her husband, Jim Gooderum, attended his services for a while. "He knew how to do everything he had to do during the service," Otterson says. "But I think he just wanted the title of bishop."
Three years ago, they arranged for Otterson's mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, to invest $300,000 with Sigillito's venture.
"We told him that was pretty much everything she had, and if anything happened to it, she'd be in trouble," Otterson recalls. "And he said, 'No, it's very safe, there's no way I can lose it.'"
She says they eventually left the church because she had a bad vibe about Sigillito. "Nothing sat right with me," she says. "The guy just rubbed me wrong."
The Racquet Club on North Kingshighway is a century-old den of dark wood paneling and mounted game animals. Here, St. Louis' lawyers, doctors and executives play squash, unwind in the steam room and chat over Scotch.
Members are tight-lipped about the club's inner workings. But Sigillito reportedly sat on the reciprocity committee, which oversaw agreements with other private clubs around the globe.
Paul Vogel, a board member, is the CFO of Millennium Brokerage Group and the CEO of Argos Partners, a consulting firm that handles estate-planning for the ultra-affluent. Sometime around 2005, he met Sigillito at the club. They shared the occasional cocktail.
Their spouses socialized, too. Vogel's wife, Lynn Ann — an attorney specializing in mediation and currently vice president of the Missouri Bar Association — got to know Sigillito's wife, Mindy Finan, at Racquet Club parties.
Soon, the Vogels were eating brunch with the Sigillitos after church on Sundays. They once visited what Sigillito referred to as his "country home" in Marthasville.
In May 2008 Vogel made his first family investment in Sigillito's English real estate program. Eight months later, Vogel flew to England to check things out firsthand.
Impressed, he described his experience in a due diligence report dated February 10, 2009.
Here's how things worked: Investors would scribble out checks to Sigillito, but these weren't loans to him, per se. The bishop was supposed to be middleman, raising funds for a fee. He would wire the cash across the Atlantic and into the hands of an Englishman named Derek J. Smith.
As Vogel explained it in his report, Smith was a former civil engineer in his sixties who'd carved out a valuable niche. England needed housing for its ballooning population. But development was banned in the greenspaces surrounding the towns to prevent ugly urban sprawl.
Smith's particular skill, Vogel wrote, was sniffing out plum parcels he knew could be rezoned for residential construction. Smith would purchase an "option," allowing him the right to buy the plot later at a set price. Once the rezoning came through, he'd snatch up the property and either bring in a savvy developer or just flip it to somebody else.
Vogel says he intended his due diligence report for family, friends and a few clients, at first. Of course, he wasn't the only Racquet Club member offering specifics on the venture.
A memo authored by R.C. Baer suggested that Smith was courting American dollars because many UK banks refused to finance real estate options, and the ones that did charged high interest. [Editor’s note: A correction ran concerning this paragraph; please see end of article.]
Your dollars will be safe with Derek Smith, the 41-year-old Baer assured his clients — and not simply because of his near-impeccable credit rating. Smith also owned twice as much as he owed. In other words, even in the worst-case scenario — Smith defaults on every loan, and all the Yankee lenders sue to recoup their losses — the Brit could, in theory, sell off all his properties and placate everybody.
For example, he could offload Hinton Grange, a charming boutique hotel for "discerning romantics" two hours west of London, near Bath. Or Little Farm Nursery, an "active income-producing" garden operation sitting on ten acres in Maidenhead. (Vogel, during his visit, toured both.)
These two assets alone — valued at a combined $23 million — raked in enough business revenue to pay the Americans their interest, should Smith make some bad option trades. Baer found this "very comforting."
The "key" to everything, he wrote, was Martin Sigillito, whose "expertise" and "constant monitoring" made this an "excellent opportunity" for "high-yield."
"Almost all of Marty's family money is invested with Derek," Baer wrote to interested parties, adding: "any money you would invest would be alongside my money, as well!"
And invest they did. Former Racquet Club president Mark Merlotti and his wife, Cindy, bought in. So did local developer and former board member Clark Amos, along with his son Preston. Tom Bertani, the club's general manager, put in funds with his wife, Donna. None returned calls from RFT. Baer likewise declined to comment for this story.
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