The sentencing date for former Live Well Financial CEO Michael Hild has been delayed by three weeks, owing to the fact that Hild has enlisted new legal representation in the wake of a guilty verdict handed down by a jury in the Southern District Court of New York for an alleged bond fraud scheme. This is according to court documents obtained by RMD and reporting by local Richmond, Va. press.
Hild, who was found guilty on five counts late last month including for conspiracy to commit securities fraud; of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud; of securities fraud; of wire fraud; and of bank fraud was originally scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Ronnie Abrams in Manhattan this coming August. That date has now been moved into September to accommodate a request by Hild’s new attorney.
New attorney for Hild
According to court filings, Hild has replaced his attorney Benjamin Dusing from representing him. No reason for the replacement was indicated, but presiding Judge Ronnie Abrams was notified of the change on May 12.
“Earlier today, I filed a notice of appearance in the above-referenced case, as defendant Michael Hild has retained my firm to replace prior counsel, including for purposes of post-trial motions and sentencing,” wrote Brian A. Jacobs, partner with Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC in New York. “I am writing respectfully to request that the Court permit this substitution of counsel and grant brief adjournments of the current dates for post-trial motions and sentencing.”
Jacobs has indicated that taking over the case and determining the defense’s next steps after the trial requires additional time.
“In order to evaluate and prepare post-trial motions, I am currently in the process of obtaining the extensive record in the case from prior counsel, and I am also reviewing and assessing those portions of the record to which I currently have access,” Jacobs wrote to Judge Abrams.
Additionally, Jacobs has requested a delay in the deadline for post-trial motions to be pushed to the end of July, and for a delay in the sentencing date – originally slated for August 20 – to early September. Judge Abrams submitted a response later on May 12 granting the replacement of counsel, and delayed the sentencing date to September 10.
Hild remains free on bond according to reporting at RichmondBizSense, and alleged co-conspirators and former Live Well executives Eric Rohr and Darren Stumberger are scheduled to be sentenced on August 26 and June 18, respectively. Both men have already pleaded guilty for their involvement in the alleged scheme, and testified on behalf of the prosecution in the trial against Hild.
No additional filings have taken place indicating that Hild will aim to appeal the decision of the jury in his trial. However, according to Jacobs’ biography page on the Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC law firm website, he served as a former federal prosecutor with experience in appeals.
Specifically, he was Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where he served as Deputy Chief of Appeals. He led investigations and prosecutions of federal crimes including bank and wire fraud, and argued ten appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The site also details that Jacobs now “represents individuals and organizations in criminal, civil, and regulatory matters, internal investigations, and appeals,” with prior cases having involved allegations of financial and accounting fraud as well as “insider trading, bribery and corruption, computer hacking, and trade-secrets theft.”
RMD learned that Live Well Financial had halted funding for new loans in early May 2019, and the company abruptly closed shortly thereafter, laying off over 100 employees. A coalition of the lender’s former creditors filed suit to force the remains of Live Well into bankruptcy and a court-supervised liquidation, and shortly afterward Michael Hild was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) due to his alleged connections with a bond fraud scheme.
After enlisting New York-area attorneys initially, Hild dismissed them in favor of Mr. Dusing, a former friend and classmate, who represented Hild at the trial in April. After the trial was initially delayed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it commenced on April 13, and the jury handed in its verdict on April 30.
RMD reached out to both Hild’s former attorney Benjamin Dusing as well as current attorney Brian Jacobs. Jacobs declined to comment when reached by phone, while Dusing had not returned RMD’s request for comment as of press time. Representatives for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York also declined to comment on the matter when reached by RMD.
Immediately prior to the news of its closure, Live Well Financial was the seventh-largest reverse mortgage lender in the industry, recording 1,707 Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) endorsements across both retail and wholesale channels in the 12-month period ending in February 2019, according to data compiled by Reverse Market Insight (RMI). It took several months for Live Well to fall out of the top 10 rankings due to its status as a top-10 lender.
Editor’s note: The language of this story was changed to more precisely reflect the outcome of the April 2021 trial.