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Sad saga of investor's disappearing $720,000

    Richard Piccoli, the 82-year-old Amherst man accused of running a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, is portrayed by his lawyers as overwhelmed by his recent arrest. He wants more than anything, they said, to make sure his investors get their money.

   Compare that image to today's story about Ralph Sigl,  a man so incapacitated by drink that he was declared incompetent to handle his finances by a State Supreme Court judge.

   That didn't stop Piccoli, according to Sigl's family, who say he took a lawyer and a bartender to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where Sigl was hospitalized for alcoholism, and had Sigl rewrite the will to his $800,000 estate.

   Piccoli became the new beneficiary and executor of Sigl's estate. He also persuaded Sigl's court-appointed conservator to invest Sigl's money — made in a real estate business — in Piccoli's Gen-See Capital.

   There's less than $80,000 left today in the Sigl estate. And to make matters worse, an attorney who conducted an audit of Sigl's finances told a judge that Piccoli was running a Ponzi scheme. That was in 1998, 10 years before his arrest on charges of running a Ponzi scheme.

   What's wrong with this picture?

   —Michael Beebe

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Crime & Courts
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