CHARLOTTE, NC (Rick Rothacker/The Charlotte Observer) - The estate auction Thursday for the late Rick Siskey, the Charlotte businessman accused of operating a long-running Ponzi scheme, raised about $2.1 million, according to an unaudited tally by the auction firms.
"The result is, frankly, better than we anticipated," said Leland Little, whose Leland Little Auctions ran the sale, along with Iron Horse Auction Co.
More than 500 items ranging from a Bentley convertible to a 5-carat diamond ring were on the block, drawing hundreds of bidders to a room in the Charlotte Convention Center. The final item sold a little less than six hours after the start.
The sale comes after the 58-year-old Siskey took his own life in December, shortly after allegations emerged that he had long operated a Ponzi scheme costing investors millions of dollars. Proceeds from the auction will go toward repaying creditors, including investors, said Lane Williamson, the attorney handling Siskey's estate.
The auction will help raise only a portion of the money owed investors.
After his death, four Siskey companies were pushed into federal bankruptcy court in Charlotte, and filings show that more than 100 investors have submitted claims exceeding $49 million. However, a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee, Joe Grier, is still examining the claims and combing through Siskey's assets. Final claims are due Aug. 23.
Siskey's widow, Diane, has pledged to set aside $37.5 million of the $47 million in life insurance proceeds from her husband's death for investors. But attorneys for investors have said that may not be enough.
Before launching into his fast-paced patter Thursday, Little, the auctioneer, kicked off the sale by welcoming bidders in person, on the Internet and calling in by phone. "This is an unusual opportunity as you can all see for yourself, from the vehicles to the jewelry to the coins to the nice furnishings," he told the crowd.
Little kept the bidding moving quickly, but still found room to interact with bidders.
"I believe she deserves it," he said to one bidder before a diamond necklace sold for $19,000.
Bette Clark, from Avery County, was one of the attendees Thursday after hearing about the sale on the news.
"We're just hoping to find a bargain, which probably won't happen," said Clark, who attended with her husband, Troy.
Ben Jarrett, of Charlotte, was also at the auction after previewing items at the SouthPark home earlier in the week. He was looking for potential home furnishings.
"The estate is something else," he said. "It's a beautiful place out there."
Jarrett said the alleged fraud was a terrible thing, but that he also feels for the remaining Siskey family members.
"It's a tragedy," he said.
The Siskeys' son, Richard Siskey Jr., was in attendance Thursday. He would not comment about the auction.
An FBI affidavit unsealed in January alleged that Siskey was taking investors' money, and then using the funds for personal expenses and to pay back other investors seeking redemptions.
In one example in the affidavit, an investor in 2013 gave Siskey $600,000 to invest, and one day later Siskey moved $500,000 from the investment account into his personal account. A day after that, Siskey spent $389,500 at Diamonds Direct jewelry store for "Diane's ring," according to the affidavit.
A document filed in Mecklenburg County probate court in June valued Siskey's estate at $4,423,026. That total included $454,110 in stocks and bonds and $3,954,242 in other personal property, including the items up for sale at the auction.