BIGGER UPDATE: Nancy Siegel convicted.
UPDATE: The Baltimore Sun has this article in today’s paper as the Siegel fraud/murder case goes to the jury.
ORIGINAL POST (Feb 16, 2009): US District Court–Baltimore, Maryland: United States v. Nancy Siegel: Take Two. After the government’s victorious interlocutory appeal, this mail fraud, wire fraud, and murder trial gets under way (again) March 2 in Judge Andre Davis’ courtroom.
For those of you who will be attending the 23rd National Institute on White Collar Crime in San Francisco and don’t want to wait for the really bad network tv movie that is bound to be made about this case, here is what the government hopes the evidence will prove, as set out in the Fourth Circuit opinion:
Nancy Siegel married Charles Kucharski in 1968, and the couple divorced in 1985. Sometime towards the end of the marriage, Siegel began gambling. To support her gambling habit, Siegel used Kucharski’s name and personal information to obtain credit without Kucharski’s knowledge. Siegel’s actions left Kucharski more than $100,000 in debt, and he was forced to file for bankruptcy a few years after the couple divorced.
Siegel married Ted Giesendaffer in 1985. She apparently continued to gamble and continued to support her gambling habit by engaging in the same kind of fraudulent conduct she began in her first marriage. Siegel used Giesendaffer’s personal information to obtain credit, and she stole money from him by altering mortgage-payment checks to make them payable to her instead of the mortgage company. When Giesendaffer discovered Siegel’s misconduct, he confronted her about it and threatened to go to the police. Siegel responded to that threat with such violence that Giesendaffer hid from her in a closet. Siegel and Giesendaffer separated in February 1992 and divorced in 1993.
The Fourth Circuit opinion continues several pages later with the following:
After selling the house, Watkins and Siegel went to Atlantic City to celebrate their upcoming marriage. Watkins apparently drank heavily in Atlantic City, and Siegel took him to an emergency room when they returned to Maryland. Watkins was admitted to the hospital.
Watkins told hospital staff that Siegel was his fiancée, but Siegel told the staff that she was simply his caregiver or housekeeper, not his fiancée. Although Watkins was oriented in time, place, and person, and appeared to hospital staff to be sensitive and responsive, he was diagnosed as suffering from dementia, given his insistence in the face of her denial that he was engaged to Siegel. Watkins was then transferred to the psychiatric ward. Hospital records indicate that Siegel did not want Watkins to be discharged into her care and that she tried to have him placed in a long-term care facility. She was unable to find a facility with an immediate opening, and she took Watkins to her condominium when he was discharged on April 16, 1996.
On May 14, 1996, Watkins’s emaciated body was found near an access point to the Appalachian Trail in Loudoun, Virginia. The body was stuffed inside two duffle bags and then stuffed into a footlocker. The cause of death was cervical compression, and there were bruises and other marks on the body that were consistent with manual strangulation.
A toxicology analysis revealed that Watkins’s blood and liver contained toxic levels of an over-the-counter medication with sedative effects, which suggested that Watkins had been ingesting extremely high levels of the medication for a period of weeks or months. Although Watkins’s body was found within days after his death, the police were unable to identify the body. Siegel never reported him missing, and because Watkins had lost contact with his friends and family, no one else even knew that he had disappeared.
Siegel continued to use Watkins’s identity well after his death. She stopped the direct deposit of his Social Security checks, had the checks mailed to her address (and later a post office box) in Ellicott City, and deposited the checks in various bank accounts to which she had access. Siegel continued to receive Watkins’s annuity payments, and she opened new credit card accounts in Watkins’s name several years after his death.