Liz Stajduhar recalls the exact moment she “knew-knew” her boss was running a multimillion-dollar scam.
It was May 17, 2010, inside her downtown Clayton office. Her employer, Martin T. Sigillito — a lecturer in law, American Anglican bishop and member of the elite Racquet Club of St. Louis — was absent that morning. He’d scrambled off to Israel a few days earlier, promising to return with fresh funds to resuscitate his investment program.
As his trusted secretary of nine years, Stajduhar hadn’t yet abandoned all faith. That is, until attorney Mike Becker of the downtown law firm HeplerBroom dropped by around 11 a.m. He’d been representing Sigillito in an overseas matter. Like Stajduhar, he had become intimately familiar with his client’s business.
Sigillito’s project was channeling private loans from St. Louisans and other Americans to a real estate developer in England. Conditions were ripe for growth there, Sigillito had promised. His man in the UK was an expert who knew how to spot lucrative properties and get things done.
But on that spring day, Becker brought the secretary some news that made him sick to his stomach: The entire venture was bankrupt. Sigillito had collected tens of millions of dollars, but there were barely any assets in England to speak of. Worse still, Becker said, the loan agreements did not permit Sigillito to divert new investments to pay off older investors — the very definition of a Ponzi scheme. Yet Becker had seen evidence of Sigillito doing just that.
Bishop Sigillito’s American Anglican Convocation is one of the dozens of Anglican splinter groups and self-made denominations that have formed over the years. This group considers even the Anglican Church of North America to be too theologically liberal (and perhaps too accountable?) for their tastes.