Hild blames attorney, seeks acquittal or new trial as sentencing looms 

Michael Hild was convicted of fraud over an alleged bond pricing scheme at Live Well Financial. (BizSense file)

Michael Hild isn’t going down without a fight.

The embattled Richmond businessman is making a push to wriggle free from a criminal conviction and potential prison sentence — and he’s doing so by casting blame on his childhood friend-turned defense attorney.

Hild filed a petition last month in Manhattan federal court for a post-conviction acquittal, or at the very least a new trial, arguing that his previous legal team was wrongfully ineffective during his three-week trial due in part to allegedly undisclosed conflicts of interest.

The effort comes as Hild awaits sentencing after a jury found him guilty on all counts for his role in an alleged bond pricing scheme that brought down his Chesterfield-based mortgage company Live Well Financial.

Armed with a new lawyer, Hild argues that his previous attorney Benjamin Dusing and co-counsel Katy Lawrence were secretly litigating multiple custody cases back in Kentucky with two mothers of Dusing’s children leading up to and during Hild’s trial in April.

“This is a case about a defendant who never should have been convicted at trial, and who was deprived of the chance to mount an effective trial defense because his counsel was secretly laboring under serious conflicts of interest stemming from counsel’s own misconduct,” Hild’s recent court filing states.

Hild’s camp argues in the 50-page filing that Dusing and Lawrence hid from Hild and the court their conflicts for fear of being fired or losing their ability to use the Hild case to delay the cases in Kentucky. Lawrence was allegedly helping Dusing with the Hild case while also representing him in the Kentucky custody matters.

Hild claims the Kentucky cases were a major distraction for Dusing and Lawrence as they were actively litigating from afar.

Attempting to illustrate an example of how the two cases coincided, Hild’s new attorney, Brian Jacobs of New York law firm Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello, argues that Dusing and Lawrence asked the Kentucky court to delay those proceedings during the Hild trial. The court ultimately denied the request on April 29, the day of closing arguments in the Hild trial.

Jacobs alleges that Dusing was facing the threat of jail time and the possibility of disciplinary proceedings and an investigation into the bribery of a witness, all related to the cases in Kentucky.

“Mr. Hild appears to have unwittingly funded the “most important litigation” of Mr. Dusing’s life at the expense of his own case,” Jacobs said in the court filing.

The filing cites that the right to a conflict-free counsel is part of the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution.

Hild also claims Dusing improperly solicited him when he reached out in January 2020 after learning of his legal troubles. The two grew up together as kids in Kentucky.

Beyond the accusations against Dusing and Lawrence, Jacobs also argues that his client should be acquitted “because the proof at trial failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Hild committed any of the charged crimes.”

In particular, Jacobs zeroes in on the prosecution’s presentation of Live Well’s bond pricing practices. The U.S. Attorney’s Office argued that the once-fast-growing company propped itself up by fraudulently inflating the prices of its reverse mortgage bonds and lying to lenders about their value, at Hild’s direction.

But Jacobs claims Hild never intended to defraud anyone. He argues that the company’s pricing calculation methods, including a prominent one called Scenario 14, weren’t based on inflated values but rather an effort to determine accurate values for the bonds.

He claims Live Well’s pricing model was simply superior to the rest of the industry.

“It was not a crime for Mr. Hild to attempt to ‘take advantage’ of Live Well’s “more accurate assessment of the fair market value,” the filing states. “The evidence at trial failed to prove that Live Well misrepresented the bond values, or that Mr. Hild had intent to defraud.”

Hild’s effort at acquittal or a new trial continues to play out, with the next step requiring the government to file its response to the latest filings.

The government argued that it can’t do so until Dusing has had a chance to address the allegations against him. The judge ordered Dusing to do just that under oath in an affidavit.

Dusing, reached by BizSense via email last week, said he would comply with the judge’s order and would not comment beyond that.

And while the process continues to play out, the arguments are having at least one desired effect: the judge agreed that Hild’s Sept. 10 sentencing date can be pushed back if necessary to let the lawyer drama unfold.

Hild was found guilty of five charges, including securities fraud, mail fraud and bank fraud, which call for a combined maximum of 115 years in prison and maximum fine of $5 million.

Jacobs, reached by phone last week, said the recent Hild filings speak for themselves and that he looks forward to letting the case play out in court.

The legal fight in Manhattan isn’t the only one Hild has on his plate.

He and his wife Laura were sued last month by the trustee overseeing Live Well’s bankruptcy case. That multi-pronged case is seeking $110 million for the bankruptcy estate, including potentially taking control of the Hilds’ vast Richmond real estate holdings.

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Michelle Reynolds
Michelle Reynolds
1 month ago

Birds of a feather flock together.

kay christensen
kay christensen
1 month ago

Good Lord…Lock this clown up already!

Matt Merica
Matt Merica
1 month ago

As stated before – guilty of fraud AND stupidity. Hopefully they take everything he owns and gets 15 years in prison.

Randall Hudgins
Randall Hudgins
1 month ago

It shouldn’t have been too difficult for a competent law firm to confuse a jury or cast enough doubt over the minutia of how bond values are calculated to let Hild avoid jail time, at the very least. Besides, all of these reverse mortgage vultures use dubious accounting to bolster their access to capital, as do many other financial and real estate related businesses. After following this story for a few years, it seems to me like the reason LWF was singled out for audit was that he was simply not well liked. Loathed, even. Is that enough to financially… Read more »

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
1 month ago

Since LWF had to basically close up in the middle of the night with no notice, and since Hild blatantly took money out to buy up property in Manchester, i think the prosecutors are not just basing things on popularity or lac thereof

Randall Hudgins
Randall Hudgins
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

The case, the charges, revolve around fraudulent valuations resulting in larger lines of credit. Those valuations, like subprime mortgages, skirt the law and are difficult to both prove or disprove. Pulling the lines of credit caused the company to instantly implode and the creditors to lose their money. Who knows what would have happened if no one had said or done anything? And yes, like many business people, he also enriched himself – not illegal and not part of the charges as far as I know. I am no fan of the guy, but looking at the case objectively it… Read more »

Michael Dodson
Michael Dodson
1 month ago

The firm’s CFO and head bond trader testified against him; he told them to inflate the valuation numbers on the loan packages. And then they tried to shred (and did) shred documents before the feds came in. Your right the market value are hard to prove sometimes but in this case witnesses of the prosecutor were believed over the defense; hence a guilty verdict.

Samantha Jamerson
Samantha Jamerson
1 month ago

Please do not tell me that you condone his illegal behavior. It’s irrelevant whether he is liked or not….He still broke the law!

Tauryn Lafell
Tauryn Lafell
1 month ago

Grasping at straws… a conflict is where the attorney has some other undisclosed interest or relationship with a thing or a party in the litigation. For example, if Dusing was romantically involved with Mrs. Hild and “secretly” wanted to throw the case such that Mr. Hild would otherwise be out of the way, that would be a conflict. An attorney having his own problems that were being handled during a case is not considered a conflict. Attorneys have multiple cases all the time which stress them out. Unless Mr. Hild can point to specific blatant failures by Mr. Dusing–this is… Read more »

Steve Cook
Steve Cook
1 month ago
Reply to  Tauryn Lafell

Thanks Tauryn, now you’ve given him the germ of an idea he will use for his next appeal.

Michael Dodson
Michael Dodson
1 month ago
Reply to  Tauryn Lafell

Tauryn when this fails he will blame the judge or AUSA; nothing is ever Hild’s fault. Always someone else. I hope when he does go to prison his official inmate photo is part of that BizSense article update.

Justin Ranson
Justin Ranson
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Dodson

Stereotypical Psychological projection. If he wins his appeal, the prosecution should get a psychologist to profile him.

Vicki Croisetiere
Vicki Croisetiere
1 month ago

Everything is everyone else’s fault with this guy. Anyone who has had any dealings with him knows this already.