The federal criminal trial of Richmond businessman Michael Hild now will be held next year, after he and his attorney last month requested a delay in order to deal with logistical challenges posed by the pandemic.
Hild, who was arrested last August on charges of securities fraud, mail fraud and bank fraud related to an alleged bond scheme at his now-defunct Chesterfield-based mortgage company Live Well Financial, had been set to go to trial in October in federal court in Manhattan.
Hild has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has remained free on bond.
The trial now is set for April 12, 2021 before Judge Ronnie Abrams.
Hild’s attorney, Benjamin Dusing of BGDLaw in Fort Wright, Kentucky, explained in a letter to the judge that he and Hild need more time to prepare their defense in the face of disruptions from the coronavirus shutdown.
“The case is extremely complex and requires extensive face-to-face interaction to adequately prepare Mr. Hild’s defense, especially given the amount of documentary evidence relied upon by the government,” Dusing said in the letter, which was included in court filings.
Dusing cited the need for more time to review the documents presented by the government, estimated at 4 million pages.
The age of social distancing has hindered Hild and Dusing’s ability to meet for many months and hampered efforts to interview witnesses, the filing states.
Federal prosecutors did not oppose the request and Abrams approved the delay last month.
The pandemic also posed challenges in the transferring of files after Hild changed attorneys. Dusing, a former federal prosecutor, is a childhood friend of Hild’s from their high school days in Kentucky. Hild hired him this year to replace a team from Murphy & McGonigle in Washington, D.C.
Dusing said last week he and Hild, who remains in Richmond, have continued to stay in touch by phone and FaceTime, and look forward to their day in court.
“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to present the truth. It’s understandably natural that people think where there’s smoke there’s fire,” he said. “That’s not always the case and that’s why we have the process.”
Hild’s arrest was preceded last year by the sudden collapse of Live Well, which he built from scratch beginning in 2005 after working as an executive at Capital One.
The company, which originated, wholesaled and serviced reverse mortgages, grew to be listed among the region’s fastest-growing businesses, and had upwards of 300 employees in Richmond and San Diego before its abrupt closure.
In addition to scrutinizing Hild’s dealings at Live Well, federal prosecutors also zeroed in on various real estate holdings Hild and his wife Laura had accumulated in recent years, mainly in Richmond’s Southside. Laura is not a party to any of the legal cases involving her husband. Some of those properties have since been sold at a court-approved auction.
Also charged criminally were Live Well CFO Eric Rohr and Executive Vice President Darren Stumberger. They have pleaded guilty in the criminal case and have consented to partial judgements on the civil matter. They are both cooperating with authorities.