The bankruptcy court trustee unraveling the Rick Siskey Ponzi scheme case is seeking to recover $9.75 million in insurance money paid out after the Charlotte businessman’s death to family members and a business associate, the trustee told the Observer Friday.
The money held by Siskey’s widow, Diane ($7.5 million); his daughter, Jenna Negrelli ($2 million); and his former assistant, Denise Rhodes ($250,000), was part of a $10 million life insurance policy that paid out in January 2017. Trustee Joe Grier reached a settlement disclosed Wednesday with former Siskey associate Ben Lowder, who received the remaining $250,000.
“We are pursuing recovery of all life insurance proceeds,” Grier said.
Siskey, 58, took his own life in December 2016, days after court filings gave the first public indication that he was under investigation for fraud. An FBI affidavit unsealed weeks later alleged Siskey – who long sold insurance and other financial products to Charlotte clients – was operating a Ponzi scheme for years, costing investors millions.
Grier and his team are now sorting through claims from investors and accumulating assets that can be distributed to victims.
As part of the bankruptcy court investigation, the trustee determined that Siskey had a MetLife insurance policy with a $10 million death benefit that paid out in January 2017 to four individuals, according to a court filing Wednesday. Siskey had made Lowder a beneficiary of the policy on Dec. 16, 2016 – four days after Siskey was approached by federal investigators, according to an FBI affidavit, and 12 days before his death.
Lawyers for Lowder, Diane Siskey, Jenna Siskey and Rhodes declined to comment.
According to Wednesday’s filing, the trustee believes proceeds of the Ponzi scheme were used by Siskey to pay insurance premiums on the policy, the filing says. Some investors have also previously suggested that their own money may have been used to pay the premiums.
The trustee reached a $220,000 settlement with Lowder after taking into consideration his financial condition and the cost of pursuing further litigation, Wednesday’s filing said. Life insurance typically pays out in suicides if the death occurs more than two years after the policy is taken out.
Diane Siskey has previously indicated that she plans to turn over $37.5 million of the $47 million she has received from her husband’s MetLife life insurance policies “subject to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement,” according to a trustee filing in November. The $7.5 million being sought by the trustee is part of that amount.
The settlement with Lowder needs court approval and a hearing has been set for Feb. 12 in Charlotte. A hearing on another matter in the case is scheduled for this Monday.
Investors are still waiting to find out how much money they will get back through the bankruptcy court process. In a filing last month, the trustee said a “high percentage” of the investors are beyond retirement age and lost their life savings. One claimant came to the trustee’s office seeking grocery money.