FBI helping Stuart Siegel recover assets from theft by his now-deceased assistant

vanessapatterson

Vanessa Patterson died suddenly on Feb. 8, days after being confronted by the FBI.

Ten months after his longtime personal assistant died under mysterious circumstances, Stuart Siegel is beginning to get some answers about the more than $1 million he claims she stole from him.

The well-known Richmond businessman, for whom VCU’s Siegel Center is named, disclosed in court filings last month that the FBI has begun seizing assets from the estate of Vanessa Patterson, who worked as Siegel’s assistant and bookkeeper for nearly a decade before her sudden death in February.

Court filings state that Peter Yaffe, Patterson’s longtime boyfriend, and her two sons, have agreed to turn over assets totaling $250,000 to the FBI that have been determined to be traceable back to funds Patterson embezzled from Siegel.

The assets include money held in various bank and investment accounts in the name of Yaffe or Patterson’s sons, as well as a luxury automobile the FBI found was purchased by Patterson with stolen funds and was now in Yaffe’s possession.

Siegel is suing Yaffe, who is the executor of Patterson’s estate, as well as her sons and her company, Association Management Specialists, which allegedly received much of the stolen funds and funneled it to Patterson and the others.

Siegel claims Patterson, in a scheme that began in 2014, forged checks and used his money to buy herself an Audi A5, expensive vacations in the U.S. and abroad, cars and tuition at private schools and college for her sons, and a horse and horse trailer for one of her sons.

Siegel, who formerly helmed menswear giant S&K, claims money stolen from him helped pay for a home overlooking the golf course at Richmond Country Club in Goochland. Siegel claims he also unknowingly helped fund Patterson’s 2021 purchase of a home in Roatan, Honduras, a small Caribbean island.

Money was also funneled to various bank, investment and retirement accounts for the benefit of Patterson, and allegedly for Yaffe and the others.

stuartsiegel

Stuart Siegel

Siegel claims he finally discovered the theft in late 2022, and questioned Patterson about two checks from his checking account, one payable to her personally and one to AMS.

Patterson, the court filings state, told Siegel she’d look into the matter before shortly thereafter informing him she had to stop working for him, citing a health issue.

Siegel then had his accounting service dig through bank statements and previously written checks. The U.S. Attorney’s Office was informed of the theft and a federal investigation was launched.

On Jan. 26, an FBI agent met with Patterson. She was given a “target letter” informing her that the FBI was investigating her in connection with the embezzlement. The suit claims that the letter offered Patterson a chance to “resolve the matter before an indictment or the issuance of an arrest warrant.”

She was given two weeks to respond but never did, the suit states.

Patterson died Feb. 8, under circumstances that are still unclear.

The total amount Patterson stole and embezzled from the plaintiff is alleged to be $1.07 million, according to court filings.

With the $250,000 in cash and other assets seized by the FBI and set to be returned to Siegel, recent court filings state that Siegel wants an additional $826,000 from the defendants to make him whole.

The disclosures of the FBI’s efforts were made in an amended complaint put forth last month by Siegel’s camp but not yet formally memorialized by the court. The newly proposed complaint purportedly contains facts learned by Siegel and his attorney since the initial filing this summer.

Among the new details in the revised complaints are allegations of how money was allegedly funneled by Patterson to Yaffe.

Patterson’s company, AMS, allegedly paid Yaffe a salary each year from 2017-2021 totaling $370,000 over the six-year period. That included a $75,000 annual salary each year from 2017 to 2020.

But Siegel claims Yaffe was a “sham employee” and that the position was part of an arrangement created to conceal the money stolen by Patterson.

“Yaffe did little or no work for AMS during 2017 through 2022, and the above salary payments to him were simply part of a scheme to funnel money to him – money which Yaffe did not actually earn and which had been stolen from Siegel,” the complaint alleges.

AMS also made contributions for Yaffe into a retirement account in his name totaling $79,000, which he then transferred to a different account in his name.

VCU Stuart C. Siegel Center by Jeff Auth

VCU’s Siegel Center, named for Stuart Siegel. (File photo by Jeff Auth)

As part of the FBI’s investigation, Yaffe has agreed to forfeit $50,775 of the funds AMS contributed into his retirement account, plus another $79,000 in investment gains and $92,000 from another account.

The proposed complaint states that the defendants did not contest the seizure of the funds or the 2019 Audi A-5 Quattro.

Meanwhile, the attorneys representing Yaffe and Patterson’s sons are still pushing to have many of the claims dismissed and more recently argued that the amended complaint should not be approved by the judge until the FBI has had a chance to complete its investigation.

In July the defendants argued that Siegel’s claims of unjust enrichment and the imposition of a constructive trust, the latter of which would prevent any assets from being disposed of while the case plays out, should be dismissed.

In arguing for the amended complaint to be put on hold, the defendants described their cooperation with the FBI while emphasizing they had no knowledge of the dealings between Siegel and Patterson.

“The cooperation of the estate and the individual defendants is driven by the desire for privacy and a fundamental lack of insight or knowledge as to the circumstances surrounding the allegations,” the defendants state in a Nov. 15 filing.

“Mr. Siegel does not and cannot assert that the individual defendants had any knowledge of any alleged benefit from Mr. Siegel to them.”

Belinda Jones, an attorney with Christian & Barton representing Yaffe and Patterson’s sons, expressed bewilderment in the filing as to why Siegel is seeking to file an amended complaint.

“The estate and the individual defendants have and continue to cooperate fully in the FBI investigation and to cause each of them to expend limited resources in defending this action is contrary to the relief sought by Mr. Siegel,” the motion states.

Jones and attorney Ryan Young, who’s representing Patterson’s estate, declined to comment on the case other than to emphasize their clients’ cooperation and the fact that Vanessa Patterson is the only target of the FBI’s investigation.

“To their knowledge, neither Mr. Yaffe nor Ms. Patterson’s sons have ever been the subject of any criminal investigation concerning Mr. Siegel,” the attorneys said in a joint statement.

Siegel, reached by phone last week, declined to comment beyond the court filings, other than to thank the FBI for its efforts.

“I really appreciate the hard work of the FBI,” he said. “They’ve been on top of this from the beginning and they’re doing a great job.”

Siegel is represented by Richmond attorney John Burke Jr. of the J.K. Burke Law Firm, who also credited the U.S. Attorney’s Office in helping with the case.

A hearing is set in the case for Feb. 9 at 9:30 a.m. in Henrico Circuit Court.

The circumstances of Patterson’s death remain unclear.

Her obituary, which touted her generosity, stated only that she died unexpectedly. Siegel’s initial court filing claims she died “under mysterious circumstances.” His new complaint states that Patterson committed suicide, while an affidavit from an FBI agent included in the court records states that Henrico police were still investigating her death and “has not ruled out the possibility that Patterson committed suicide.”

The FBI affidavit states that a pedestrian discovered Patterson on the ground next to a four-story parking garage next to her home in a Henrico townhouse complex.

Copies of death certificates in Virginia are available only to family members for the first 25 years after death.

vanessapatterson

Vanessa Patterson died suddenly on Feb. 8, days after being confronted by the FBI.

Ten months after his longtime personal assistant died under mysterious circumstances, Stuart Siegel is beginning to get some answers about the more than $1 million he claims she stole from him.

The well-known Richmond businessman, for whom VCU’s Siegel Center is named, disclosed in court filings last month that the FBI has begun seizing assets from the estate of Vanessa Patterson, who worked as Siegel’s assistant and bookkeeper for nearly a decade before her sudden death in February.

Court filings state that Peter Yaffe, Patterson’s longtime boyfriend, and her two sons, have agreed to turn over assets totaling $250,000 to the FBI that have been determined to be traceable back to funds Patterson embezzled from Siegel.

The assets include money held in various bank and investment accounts in the name of Yaffe or Patterson’s sons, as well as a luxury automobile the FBI found was purchased by Patterson with stolen funds and was now in Yaffe’s possession.

Siegel is suing Yaffe, who is the executor of Patterson’s estate, as well as her sons and her company, Association Management Specialists, which allegedly received much of the stolen funds and funneled it to Patterson and the others.

Siegel claims Patterson, in a scheme that began in 2014, forged checks and used his money to buy herself an Audi A5, expensive vacations in the U.S. and abroad, cars and tuition at private schools and college for her sons, and a horse and horse trailer for one of her sons.

Siegel, who formerly helmed menswear giant S&K, claims money stolen from him helped pay for a home overlooking the golf course at Richmond Country Club in Goochland. Siegel claims he also unknowingly helped fund Patterson’s 2021 purchase of a home in Roatan, Honduras, a small Caribbean island.

Money was also funneled to various bank, investment and retirement accounts for the benefit of Patterson, and allegedly for Yaffe and the others.

stuartsiegel

Stuart Siegel

Siegel claims he finally discovered the theft in late 2022, and questioned Patterson about two checks from his checking account, one payable to her personally and one to AMS.

Patterson, the court filings state, told Siegel she’d look into the matter before shortly thereafter informing him she had to stop working for him, citing a health issue.

Siegel then had his accounting service dig through bank statements and previously written checks. The U.S. Attorney’s Office was informed of the theft and a federal investigation was launched.

On Jan. 26, an FBI agent met with Patterson. She was given a “target letter” informing her that the FBI was investigating her in connection with the embezzlement. The suit claims that the letter offered Patterson a chance to “resolve the matter before an indictment or the issuance of an arrest warrant.”

She was given two weeks to respond but never did, the suit states.

Patterson died Feb. 8, under circumstances that are still unclear.

The total amount Patterson stole and embezzled from the plaintiff is alleged to be $1.07 million, according to court filings.

With the $250,000 in cash and other assets seized by the FBI and set to be returned to Siegel, recent court filings state that Siegel wants an additional $826,000 from the defendants to make him whole.

The disclosures of the FBI’s efforts were made in an amended complaint put forth last month by Siegel’s camp but not yet formally memorialized by the court. The newly proposed complaint purportedly contains facts learned by Siegel and his attorney since the initial filing this summer.

Among the new details in the revised complaints are allegations of how money was allegedly funneled by Patterson to Yaffe.

Patterson’s company, AMS, allegedly paid Yaffe a salary each year from 2017-2021 totaling $370,000 over the six-year period. That included a $75,000 annual salary each year from 2017 to 2020.

But Siegel claims Yaffe was a “sham employee” and that the position was part of an arrangement created to conceal the money stolen by Patterson.

“Yaffe did little or no work for AMS during 2017 through 2022, and the above salary payments to him were simply part of a scheme to funnel money to him – money which Yaffe did not actually earn and which had been stolen from Siegel,” the complaint alleges.

AMS also made contributions for Yaffe into a retirement account in his name totaling $79,000, which he then transferred to a different account in his name.

VCU Stuart C. Siegel Center by Jeff Auth

VCU’s Siegel Center, named for Stuart Siegel. (File photo by Jeff Auth)

As part of the FBI’s investigation, Yaffe has agreed to forfeit $50,775 of the funds AMS contributed into his retirement account, plus another $79,000 in investment gains and $92,000 from another account.

The proposed complaint states that the defendants did not contest the seizure of the funds or the 2019 Audi A-5 Quattro.

Meanwhile, the attorneys representing Yaffe and Patterson’s sons are still pushing to have many of the claims dismissed and more recently argued that the amended complaint should not be approved by the judge until the FBI has had a chance to complete its investigation.

In July the defendants argued that Siegel’s claims of unjust enrichment and the imposition of a constructive trust, the latter of which would prevent any assets from being disposed of while the case plays out, should be dismissed.

In arguing for the amended complaint to be put on hold, the defendants described their cooperation with the FBI while emphasizing they had no knowledge of the dealings between Siegel and Patterson.

“The cooperation of the estate and the individual defendants is driven by the desire for privacy and a fundamental lack of insight or knowledge as to the circumstances surrounding the allegations,” the defendants state in a Nov. 15 filing.

“Mr. Siegel does not and cannot assert that the individual defendants had any knowledge of any alleged benefit from Mr. Siegel to them.”

Belinda Jones, an attorney with Christian & Barton representing Yaffe and Patterson’s sons, expressed bewilderment in the filing as to why Siegel is seeking to file an amended complaint.

“The estate and the individual defendants have and continue to cooperate fully in the FBI investigation and to cause each of them to expend limited resources in defending this action is contrary to the relief sought by Mr. Siegel,” the motion states.

Jones and attorney Ryan Young, who’s representing Patterson’s estate, declined to comment on the case other than to emphasize their clients’ cooperation and the fact that Vanessa Patterson is the only target of the FBI’s investigation.

“To their knowledge, neither Mr. Yaffe nor Ms. Patterson’s sons have ever been the subject of any criminal investigation concerning Mr. Siegel,” the attorneys said in a joint statement.

Siegel, reached by phone last week, declined to comment beyond the court filings, other than to thank the FBI for its efforts.

“I really appreciate the hard work of the FBI,” he said. “They’ve been on top of this from the beginning and they’re doing a great job.”

Siegel is represented by Richmond attorney John Burke Jr. of the J.K. Burke Law Firm, who also credited the U.S. Attorney’s Office in helping with the case.

A hearing is set in the case for Feb. 9 at 9:30 a.m. in Henrico Circuit Court.

The circumstances of Patterson’s death remain unclear.

Her obituary, which touted her generosity, stated only that she died unexpectedly. Siegel’s initial court filing claims she died “under mysterious circumstances.” His new complaint states that Patterson committed suicide, while an affidavit from an FBI agent included in the court records states that Henrico police were still investigating her death and “has not ruled out the possibility that Patterson committed suicide.”

The FBI affidavit states that a pedestrian discovered Patterson on the ground next to a four-story parking garage next to her home in a Henrico townhouse complex.

Copies of death certificates in Virginia are available only to family members for the first 25 years after death.

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David M Gammino
David M Gammino
7 months ago

Not condoning anything that was done by Ms. Patterson, but really strange to see FBI and US Attorneys office involved in this case. 9 out of 10 times this is a state/local police matter. Can’t help but think the FBI has been involved because of who Mr Siegel is, not because the United States has some pressing federal interest in an embezzlement case between two private individuals.

Ron Johnson
Ron Johnson
7 months ago

Wire fraud is a federal crime and it seems plausible that at least a little light wire fraud was committed here.