The long-awaited Siskey Ponzi settlement faces an unexpected hurdle

A group of investors who say they were hurt in the Ponzi scheme run by the late Charlotte businessman Rick Siskey is opposing a proposed settlement that would provide payments to victims.

Those investors argue that the deal could shield insurer MetLife from claims the investors have pending against it.

Announced in December, the roughly $42 million settlement is expected to allow Siskey victims to recover up to 90 percent of their investments once the deal is approved in court. Victims have been waiting to be fully compensated since Siskey took his life more than two years ago after court filings revealed he was being investigated for fraud.

The group’s objection is expected to be considered Tuesday during a hearing on the settlement in federal court in Charlotte.

In their court filing opposing the settlement, the group of 18 individuals claim that MetLife, which was once affiliated with Siskey’s financial services firm, actively concealed the scheme because Siskey was generating large profits for the insurer. If the settlement is approved, MetLife intends to use the deal’s language to stall the investors’ claims that have been filed in state court, the filing said.

A MetLife spokesman declined to comment. But in a court filing Thursday, MetLife said the group’s objection to the settlement is based on a misunderstanding of the deal and should be overruled by the court.

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‘It is unfair’

This is the latest development in the long-running case that began following the death of Siskey, 58, in December 2016.

Siskey lured clients with promises of fixed returns in safe investments but instead used their money to fund a lavish lifestyle and pay off other investors, according to court filings. Some of the investors entrusted him with hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece, the filings state.

For Charlotte, it has unraveled into one of the biggest investment frauds in the area’s history.

The December settlement, when coupled with a previous one, would immediately provide investors with about 68 percent of their claims, according to documents.

Investors could receive up to 90 percent of their claims if they agree to release Siskey’s widow, her children and MetLife from individual claims, according to terms of the deal.

Ultimately, according to filings, the trustee handling the case hopes the settlement enables victims to receive more money from the Siskey estate. That would result in 100 percent recovery on investors’ claims plus some interest, documents state.

In a filing Thursday, the trustee said the settlement should be approved and claimed that, through the deal, the trustee is not seeking to compel the release of the group of 18’s claims against MetLife.

In a Wednesday letter to the judge handling the federal case, Siskey investors Teresa Hawkins and her husband, Michael Burkhard, begged him to approve the settlement and deny the group’s objection.

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For nearly 30 years, the couple invested their money with Siskey, including retirement savings, and sustained more than $1.1 million in total losses through the Ponzi scheme, the letter said. As a result, the couple lost their life savings and suffered a huge physical and emotional toll during the past two years, the letter said.

“It is unfair for 18 individuals to stop the approval of the trustee’s settlement for the 175 remaining investors, many of who have had their lives devastated by these frauds perpetrated by Rick Siskey over a span of 20 plus years,” the letter said.