Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect a new start date for the trial, which initially was to begin April 12. It now will begin April 13.
With nearly two years having passed since he was arrested and charged with fraud in the wake of the collapse of his Chesterfield-based mortgage company, Michael Hild’s chance to defend himself in front of a jury is fast approaching.
Hild’s criminal trial is set for April 13 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He faces charges of securities fraud, mail fraud and bank fraud related to an alleged bond scheme at his now-defunct Live Well Financial.
Hild has pleaded not guilty to each of the five counts he faces, stating early on after his arrest that, “While Live Well unfortunately failed, every business failure is not a corporate crime.”
Federal prosecutors allege that from 2015 to 2019, Hild, who was Live Well’s founder and CEO, helped mastermind a scheme to defraud the company’s lenders by falsely inflating the value of a portfolio of bonds, in order to induce the lenders into loaning more money to Live Well than they otherwise would have.
The lenders were Mirae Asset Securities, Flagstar Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The government alleges that Hild personally pocketed more than $20 million as a result of the scheme.
Hild, who has remained free on bond since the arrest, built Live Well from scratch beginning in 2005 after working as an executive at Capital One. The company originated, wholesaled and serviced reverse mortgages, and grew to be listed among the region’s fastest-growing businesses.
Live Well had upward of 300 employees in offices in Richmond and San Diego before its abrupt closure, which was followed by the company being forced into bankruptcy liquidation by the three scorned, aforementioned lenders. Court filings state Live Well was in a $65 million hole due to the debt it owed the lenders and the true value of the allegedly inflated bond portfolios used as collateral.
Hild was arrested and charged in August 2019. His trial was initially set for October 2020, but was delayed due to pandemic-related scheduling issues.
The saga also led to the arrest of former Live Well CFO Eric Rohr and Executive Vice President Darren Stumberger. Both have pleaded guilty to criminal charges and are expected to testify during the trial.
Hild’s trial will be held in-person, with jurors sitting in retrofitted, spaced out jury boxes to comply with COVID safety protocols.
Due to social-distancing-related seating limitations, an audio broadcast of the trial will be available through a dial-in for the general public.
Hild is represented in the case by Benjamin Dusing of BGDLaw in Fort Wright, Kentucky. A former federal prosecutor, Dusing is a childhood friend of Hild’s from their high school days in Kentucky. Hild hired him last year to replace a team of attorneys from Murphy & McGonigle in Washington, D.C.
Dusing could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Of Hild’s chance to get in front of a jury, Dusing told BizSense last summer: “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.”