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$1M 'Nigerian lottery' charges against Brooksville businessman are dropped

BROOKSVILLE — Prosecutors have dropped charges against a prominent Brooksville businessman who was accused of being a co-conspirator in a Nigerian-style lottery scam that authorities say defrauded about a dozen people out of more than $1 million.

Martin "Dan" Patrick, 77, faced charges of forgery and illegal structuring of financial transactions. He was also accused of perjury in connection with statements he made about his finances in 2007 when he was going through a divorce.

Patrick was arrested May 5 after Brooksville police said they found evidence that he and Doris Siegel, a septuagenarian who allegedly duped her elderly friends and neighbors in the scheme, had agreed to split proceeds from the lottery deal.

Detectives initially believed Patrick was one of Siegel's victims.

Assistant State Attorney Don Barbee said the charges were dropped because they were filed after the expiration of a three-year statute of limitation; the allegations mostly stemmed from a $175,000 loan Siegel made to Patrick in April 2006.

"The flaws here are with the statute" and not necessarily the investigation," Barbee said Wednesday.

Police Chief George Turner declined to elaborate, saying only that he knew the charges had been dropped but that the investigation was ongoing.

"I have not seen the paperwork," Turner said in an e-mail, "but … case is still open so can't discuss it further."

Siegel, 79, came to the attention of police in 2004, when she apparently was duped by a Nigerian lottery scam. She went to police, who told her that she had likely been victimized, based on the correspondence she had received.

Siegel then used that information and deception, police said, to con money from other people. Inside her home, police said, they found piles of paperwork detailing how to operate a lottery scam. Lottery scams take several forms; victims often are asked to put up money in return for a cut of lottery winnings.

Siegel pleaded not guilty last month in her first court appearance. She remains in the Hernando County Jail.

In an interview with the Times last month, Patrick denied any involvement in any international lottery scheme. He said he knew Siegel and that the two often lent each other money, but it was not nefarious in nature.

Turner previously said there was evidence that Patrick purchased at least one home and some land with money he received from Siegel, but authorities still don't know what happened to the bulk of the more than $1 million Siegel is suspected of collecting from victims.

Brooksville Police also claimed they found evidence that Siegel and Patrick had exchanged some $500,000 during the time period that authorities say Siegel was defrauding her victims, and that Siegel had made Patrick the beneficiary in her will.

According to the arrest affidavit, Patrick produced a document during the financial disclosure phase of his divorce in 2007 showing that Siegel had loaned him $175,000.

But Patrick's attorney, Jack Hoogewind, pointed to allegations made by police that Patrick lied about receiving money from Siegel and that he had given her $338,000. If Patrick gave money to Siegel and never got any back, Hoogewind said, then he was clearly a victim.

"The state should be credited for taking a look at this case and making the right decision," Hoogewind said. "There was never any evidence that (Patrick) was involved in any type of lottery scam. If you accept the argument from BPD, he only could have been a victim."

Patrick, who owns a local insurance agency and is the son of a former county commissioner, did not return a message left at his office Wednesday afternoon.

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

$1M 'Nigerian lottery' charges against Brooksville businessman are dropped 06/02/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 7:23pm]
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