“Are you married to Michael R. Mastro?” attorney Spencer Hall asks.
“Yes, I am,” Linda S. Mastro responds.
It’s early on a March morning in 2010 at a law office in downtown Seattle, and Linda Mastro is just beginning to answer questions for a legal deposition. As she looks around the 14th-floor suite, the former Bellevue grade-school teacher turned bankrupt millionaire can see three other attorneys—hers, her husband’s, and James Rigby, a veteran Seattle lawyer appointed as federal court trustee, assigned on behalf of creditors to recover and liquidate the assets of Linda Mastro, then 60, and her spouse, developer Mike Mastro, then 85. The group has gathered this morning in part to figure out what those assets are. But first they have to cover some basics.
Seven months earlier, the two wealthy Medina jet-setters declared what is thought to be the biggest personal bankruptcy in state history, leaving the couple owing one third of a billion dollars. The couple’s massive debt is difficult to comprehend. Most Americans worry about maxing out credit cards. The Mastros maxed out their nearly $300 million fortune twice over. As John Mastandrea, one of Mastro’s partners, would say after he lost $114 million in the Mastros’ crash, “Greed is a disease. I suffered from it. Mike thrived on it.”
In the law office, as the blonde socialite with big hair awaits questions, attorney Rigby watches patiently. He’s seeking leads on the whereabouts of Linda Mastro’s valuables—jewels, gold, and two diamond rings together worth $1.3 million. Rigby hopes to seize them to help pay off Mastro’s unsecured creditors, who are fated to get back no more than one cent on the dollar.
Hall, representing Rigby, continues with his warm-up questions. “When were you born?”
In 1949, in Seattle, Linda Mastro says. She went to Roosevelt High, graduated from Central Washington University, was married for six months in 1972, and worked as a Peoples Bank loan officer when she met fellow bank worker Mike Mastro in 1974.
According to public records and interviews with friends, she was 25 at the time; he was 50, married, with a son. The natty, ebony-haired Mastro had been a Peoples branch manager before turning to real estate. Over time, Linda and Mike became friends, then began an affair. He set her up with a home and a Jaguar. She left the bank in 1979.
“Why did you leave Peoples Bank?” Hall asks as the inquiry continues.
“I met Mr. Mastro and didn’t need to work anymore,” Linda says.
A Seattle native and WWII vet, Mike had become a successful developer and hard-money lender by the 1970s, records show. The Cleveland High grad had a ready smile and a strong handshake for visitors to his Mastro Properties headquarters in Garlic Gulch, the Rainier Valley neighborhood where he grew up in a family of Italian-Americans and where many of his investors lived. Ending their long affair, Linda and Mike were married in 1989. According to Mike’s friend and business partner Mastandrea, that was two years after Mike’s wife, Joan Mastro, died of cancer.
Hall asks Linda Mastro what she did during that decade before marrying Mike.
“You had no employment of any kind?”
“You had nothing that you did that occupied your time on a regular basis?”
Hall reaches into the stack of documents and pulls out the Mastros’ prenuptial agreement. He hands it to Mastro. It includes an itemized list of the “Separate property of L.A. Gale”—her maiden name—as of May 30, 1989, a few days before their wedding.
“And it says that your net worth at that time was $1,974,301, is that correct?”
She also confirms that her husband had deposited $8,000 a month into her personal bank account over the past two decades—close to $2 million total. “It was used for my pleasure,” she says.
The deposits stopped in August 2009, Linda Mastro adds. That’s when her husband was taken into federal court by three banks and forced to declare involuntary bankruptcy.
Their assets of roughly $250 million included almost a dozen commercial properties and nearly 3,000 undeveloped residential lots. Over four decades, Mastro Properties had been involved in as much as $2 billion in office, apartment, and shopping developments from Washington to California. Now it was insolvent. The Mastros’ debt had soared to $587 million after Mike crawled out on a limb of loans in the midst of a subprime mortgage crisis. Creditors began to hear cracking sounds as Mastro juggled falling revenues with multimillion-dollar bank payments. He couldn’t pay his loans, nor could the developers who had borrowed from him pay Mastro back. He began turning properties over to the banks—including a North Seattle apartment site that had once been the venerable Leilani Lanes bowling alley. He’d also lose a $30 million investment in Lake View, an office development in Fremont that went to foreclosure.
Among the hardest-hit creditors were his “Friends & Family” investment group, about 175 mostly Italian-American backers who invested more than $100 million in Mastro’s projects. The funds underwrote developments as well as loans to other developers. During Mastro Properties’ boom days, F&F investors, making as much as 12 percent interest on their money, watched the returns roll ever upward, as did Mastro partners such as John Mastandrea. “I had 14 cars, including two Lamborghinis,” recalls the 55-year-old former co-investor, whose family has known the Mastros since the 1950s.
But when Mastro filed for bankruptcy, F&F investors lost everything, and Mastandrea alone watched $114 million disappear, he says—much of it equity in Mastro developments, along with $30 million in a cash account controlled by Mastro.
“I had to sell my cars to save my house from foreclosure,” says Mastandrea. “It caused a divorce and led to a child-custody battle. The guy who gave me my first piggy bank as a kid ended up ruining my life.”
Though he grossed more than $55 million in 2007–08, Mastro was already too far underwater, and the bursting housing bubble sent the economy further down the drain. Ultimately Mastro agreed to the Chapter 7 bankruptcy and volunteered to liquidate his devalued assets, but that left little to divvy up.
“Many of us urged Mike to file Chapter 13 and reorganize,” says Mastandrea. “He was a smart man, but he always wanted to be the big cheese, throwing money around and doing it his way. He thought he could buy off Rigby. ‘What if I slip him some money, think he’ll go away?’ he said. In the end, his ego did him in.”
Or did it?
While his business went bust, the true penance paid by Mike Mastro and his wife is an open question. After they filed for bankruptcy, they continued to treat themselves to lavish meals in Seattle and trips to Europe. When trustee Rigby turned up the heat, the Mastros went from being elusive about their assets to just plain elusive, fleeing to Europe with gold and jewels.
And they weren’t the only local high-rollers seemingly getting the upper hand in the bankruptcy game following a financial crash.
Around the same time Linda was explaining how she whiled away her days as Mike Mastro’s mistress, the Mastros’ former business partner, 67-year-old Tom Hazelrigg, was going underwater, and in 2011 was also forced into bankruptcy, owing creditors (the Mastros included) $150 million. Like his business partners, Hazelrigg hasn’t been exactly forthcoming with the courts. He claims to live in New Mexico, but has a current California driver’s license and address. Many of his financial records no longer exist, he says, allegedly destroyed by a “nasty” computer virus. He has taken the unusual step of pleading the Fifth to avoid listing his assets in court, worried he was under criminal investigation (He was, and last week he was indicted. U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan says Hazelrigg has failed to pay more than a half-million dollars in back taxes to the IRS. He clearly had the money to make such payments, say prosecutors, living a lavish lifestyle and spending millions gambling, buying racehorses, collecting art, and renting private jets. To hide some of his spending, prosecutors say, he used the Social Security number of his dead father, an Olympia doctor, as his own.)
Hazelrigg and the Mastros all say they’re barely getting by today, claiming their monthly Social Security checks as their only income. The trio of ex-multimillionaires owes debts totaling three quarters of a billion dollars, with barely one quarter billion in assets—although officials suspect more remain hidden.
At very least, they lived the high life for years after they went broke on paper, and have now sloughed off their losses and moved on with their downsized lives while creditors pick through the leftovers and search, perhaps in vain, for others.
None of the three are claiming victory per se, but Mike Mastro recently resorted to what sounded a bit like bragging.
He had indeed set up a “diversionary” offshore trust to hide luxury items, he recently told a reporter. He also intentionally failed to disclose a secret bank account through which passed almost a million dollars. And he quietly refinanced his 2008 Rolls-Royce and another car, pocketing the difference, to spite the court trustee. “I put large loans on [the cars] to thwart Rigby,” Mastro said.
Linda Mastro, though, told the reporter she was clean. “I never even jaywalked,” she said.
In the law offices that morning three years ago, Linda Mastro seemed to be walking a straight line—at least through the opening round of questions about her background. Then came inquiries about the Mastros’ spending.
“Has your lifestyle changed since the petition in bankruptcy was filed?” Hall asks.
“Definitely . . . We have no income, we have no money,” says Linda Mastro.
Her husband did give her funds to exist on, she says. But she can’t remember how much.
“You have no idea what it costs you to live per month?”
“You have no idea whether it’s more or less than $10,000?”
Have they traveled since the bankruptcy? Hall asks. Well, yes, to ski at Jackson Hole, answers Mastro. Any other trips? Hall asks.
“I don’t recall.”
“I don’t recall.”
“Do you think you could forget a trip to Switzerland you’ve made in the last year?”
She also said she couldn’t remember if she’d been to Italy—then later said she had. That was in November 2009, three months after the bankruptcy.
“What jewelry did you take to Italy in November 2009?”
“What I wore, two diamond rings.”
“Are those the diamond rings that have been the subject of motions in this litigation?”
“And you left them in Italy?”
“I don’t recall.”
“You don’t recall whether you left your diamond rings in Italy?”
And so it went. Linda Mastro was having a hazy day. She couldn’t remember who owned her own home. “I don’t even know,” she said.
Her memory would come and go throughout the bankruptcy battle. Mike Mastro displayed a similar pattern of forgetfulness under court questioning or when filling out papers, not reporting such varied assets as a $23,000 wine collection and the transfer of $56 million in IOU’s from business partner Hazelrigg.
Then there was that bank account, linked to an offshore trust, that the Mastros quietly opened under another name just before the bankruptcy. They used it to pay for the European jaunts Linda had a hard time remembering, and for trips to New York and Palm Springs, according to records Rigby dug up. They made monthly payments totaling $8,000 on the Rolls and Bentley, and bought $99,000 worth of gold bars. A credit card, paid with funds from the account, revealed they spent a night out with friends at Seattle’s ritzy Canlis restaurant just two months after declaring bankruptcy. Final tab: almost $3,000.
They could get away with such spending by hiding it from the court. But once Rigby learned of the transactions, he moved to seize what was left. The FBI also got involved, concluding that the undisclosed account constituted bankruptcy fraud. Rigby also learned that, two weeks after stashing his assets offshore in 2007 as he faced the liquidity crisis, Mike Mastro sent a cheery message to his “Friends & Family” investors, telling them all is well. “Our organization is strong and healthy, in no small part because of the relationship we value so greatly with lenders including you, our friends and family.”
He might have added: P.S. Linda and I are keeping our French visas handy just in case.
By mid-2011, Rigby had persuaded the court to approve a series of seizures and sales. One was the Mastros’ eviction from their mansion just up Evergreen Point Road from Bill Gates’ estate. The three-story waterfront contemporary with pool and sauna was sold for a bargain-basement $9.1 million, more than $5 million less than Mastro had paid for it in cash four years earlier. Rigby also confiscated luxury cars—the Rolls and a Bentley among them—and hundreds of other items that he put up for sale or auction, right down to the clothes on the Mastros’ backs: her imported furs and his Italian suits. He also filed suit against Mastro’s son, Michael K. Mastro, who worked for his father, claiming he wrongly disbursed $340,000 from a Mastro account (which the son denied).
With essentially all the Mastros’ known assets seized, they appeared to be, as Linda had claimed earlier, insolvent. Still, where were her jewels, especially those dazzling if not garish diamonds? The socialite likely still had possession of the 15.93-carat engagement ring worth $550,000 and a 27.8-carat heart-shaped anniversary ring that covers a third of the finger, valued at $750,000. She seemed foggy about the rings’ exact whereabouts. But the federal court twice ruled in Rigby’s favor for seizure, and felt Linda was lying—she was “transparently vague” and “lacking veracity,” as bankruptcy Judge Marc Barreca put it in one ruling. In June 2011, Linda Mastro was told to turn over the rings or face the court’s wrath.
That’s when the plodding, two-year legal drama broke into a full sprint: Within days, the Mastros, their trio of shih tzus, and the rings, along with other jewels, disappeared. The couple had been living in a rented 4,200-square foot Palm Desert home in California. After driving up to visit a relative in Seattle, they decided to split for Europe, Linda Mastro explained in June this year to reporter Simon Goodley of The Guardian: “I said, ‘Let’s go,’ I don’t know what came over me.” In California, Mike had fallen off a stepstool in their garage and “literally died,” she said. “They resuscitated him and then he had a cranial. He was a vegetable for several months. He had to learn to walk again.”
And so they would run, triggering a civil-arrest warrant and memories of a good chase movie—an arthritic version of Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw in The Getaway, perhaps, moving at nursing-home speed. Linda, 62, and Mike, 87 and recovering from a near-death episode, took to the road with the dogs and jewels, heading for the border—Canada rather than Mexico. They eventually wound up in Toronto, with U.S. Marshals hot on their heels bearing the contempt-of-court warrant. The Mastros ordered up an airplane.
“We had a friend in Seattle who had a plane, so we called his pilot and they started looking around for a plane for us,” Linda recalled to reporter Goodley. “We found a puddle-jumper—but it was fine, we didn’t care—that would take the dogs. We went through this private firm, and I thought the shortest distance would be to Portugal.” (No one who aided the Mastros likely faces any charges, since at that point the two were being sought on a civil, rather than criminal, matter).
They one-hopped to Greenland and landed in Lisbon, disappearing from their pursuers’ radar. For 16 months the Mastros laid low, moving several times and winding up in a hamlet called Marceau in the French Alps, surrounded by the serenity of snowcaps and nearby Lake Annecy, five hours from Paris, 40 minutes to Geneva. They picked the location on the advice of a Seattle priest, they said, without naming him.
Her attorneys had advised them to “get out of Dodge,” Linda said. “I had a nervous breakdown. I just wanted to get away . . . I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
The Mastros’ Seattle attorney, Jim Frush (who urged Mike Mastro to cooperate and answer questions for this story; he refused), says he recalls making the “Dodge” remark, but wasn’t urging his clients to run. He was suggesting they’d be better off if “they lower their profile and press coverage by leaving the area.” To California, say. His standard practice, he adds, is “that as an officer of the court, I have no choice but to tell [clients] to comply with all court processes.”
While the Mastros were on the run, a federal grand jury quietly issued a sealed indictment in Seattle charging the two with criminal bankruptcy fraud and money laundering, putting the FBI on their trail. For more than a year, the international manhunt produced little, it seemed. Then two clues dropped into the agency’s lap.
One—an invoice Mike had submitted from France to his U.S. medical insurer for minor surgery on an eardrum he injured in the war—contained one of the Mastros’ recent French addresses. Investigators also came across a French registration for a Range Rover that had previously been registered in the state of Washington—and which had been shipped overseas to the Mastros. Informants came forward with some information as well, according to authorities.
Last fall, the FBI contacted local French police, giving them the Mastros’ last known address. “After investigating in the neighborhood,” Julien Duhamel, the judicial police chief in Annecy, near Marceau, told reporters, “we were able to pretty easily find their current address.”
On October 24, Duhamel’s forces swept into the Mastros’ apartment—their name was on the mailbox—and made the surprise arrests. The frightened Mastros were whisked off to jail in Lyon as police and a court official searched the unit. There they found almost 300 pieces of jewelry worth at least $2 million. Later, in a safe deposit box they broke open at a nearby bank, they found Linda’s $1.3 million diamond rings.
In jail, her cell toilet was “a hole in the ground,” Linda told The Guardian, and she had to sleep on a “crummy muslin” bedcover. She was put on suicide watch, and, having heard that one of her dogs had died, said she didn’t care if she ever got out. “I just wanted to die,” she said. But after seven weeks the couple’s French attorney arranged for their release on electronic monitoring to await an extradition hearing. In Seattle, U.S. attorneys had unsealed the grand jury indictment with 43 criminal counts, and Rigby was moving in court to obtain the rings and other assets found in the Mastros’ possession.
If it wasn’t a movie, it was at least a TV show—which CNBC, the business channel, is now turning into a segment for American Greed. Filming began in Seattle last week.
In April last year, when Thomas Roy Hazelrigg III filed his declaration of assets to be divided up by creditors in his Chapter 7 bankruptcy case in Seattle, he reported the following: Nothing. He took the 28-page form and wrote on it that he was refusing to answer under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, “on grounds the response could ask for evidence that may incriminate me.”
The Mastros’ arrest was great news for their creditors, Rigby said. But there was still plenty of potential loot to be found, and Rigby hoped a lot of it could be found on Hazelrigg. According to Rigby, he owed Mastro—and therefore Mastro’s creditors—as much as $75 million. Could there possibly be blood in that aging turnip?
Hazelrigg’s declaration of “Nothing,” one of the first reponses he’d made to his –October 2011 bankruptcy, proved he wasn’t going to make answering that question easy for Rigby or anyone else interested in settling their debts with him.
That didn’t surprise those who know him. He’s a salty guy—even Linda Mastro, when asked about Hazelrigg during her 2010 deposition, piped up, “I just don’t like the man.” A onetime Olympia High and Stanford University football standout, Hazelrigg went on to a financial career of buying up debt and collecting at high dollar. He later became a hard-money lender, like Mastro, loaning funds to high-rolling customers.
At one time the owner of hundreds of properties including homes and condos, the former Seattleite says he now lives in Albuquerque, where he claims to be in poor health (a letter from his doctor indicates he has a heart condition). He didn’t respond to inquiries from Seattle Weekly, and doesn’t like to be interviewed or photographed—issues he first made clear in one of the few newspaper pieces written about his earlier years, in 1993 in The Seattle Times. Even back then, he refused to confirm exactly where he lived (Mercer Island, as the reporter found out anyway, where he and his then-wife were raising three children).
In the 1990s, at discounted prices, he was buying debt-collection judgments from banks and other creditors who couldn’t collect, then making a solid profit by chasing down the debtors, some with deep pockets. For example, he paid $700,000 to go after two downtown developers who owed a $13 million court judgment, legally seizing both men’s houses and forcing them and their families to move out; he then sold one house and moved into the other, valued at $3 million.
His legal actions drew lawsuits in protest. One, filed by a real-estate agent, claimed that Hazelrigg underpaid her, then harassed her, threatened her, and bilked her out of $873,000, driving her into a psychiatric hospital, the Times reported. Hazelrigg called the claim frivolous. He allowed that some folks didn’t like his style, but so what. “I have people who find it disgusting that I would go after people’s homes,” he said at the time. “They’re not business people, obviously.”
Hazelrigg was willing to take on all comers—he collected past-due tabs from such big-name developers as Martin Selig and Eugene Horbach, the latter a partner of Mike Mastro (in 1989, Horbach and Mastro notched what was then the second-largest real-estate transaction in local history when Boeing bought a dozen Renton buildings from the two for $211 million).
Eventually, a review of records shows, Hazelrigg and Mastro began to develop projects together, including a water amusement park and hotel in Palm Springs, an area where both have lived from time to time.
By the mid-2000s, the careers of Mastro and Hazelrigg were peaking and, like the economy, heading for a downturn. By the time both were hauled into bankruptcy court, Hazelrigg had borrowed or otherwise become indebted to Mastro for tens of millions, putting Mastro bankruptcy trustee Rigby and Hazelrigg bankruptcy trustee Robert Miller Jr. both on his trail. On behalf of their respective creditors, the trustees began searching for assets they could liquidate. Good luck, said Hazelrigg’s attorney, Marc Stern. His client wouldn’t cooperate with anyone, even him. “It is impossible for me to prepare [asset] schedules,” he told the court, adding “There is no money to pay me.” He asked to be excused as counsel, and was. He returned after the bankruptcy court ordered Hazelrigg to file a more complete list of assets.
In June 2012, the 6-foot-2 former footballer said he was living on his monthly Social Security check of $1,400. He listed $149 million in liabilities against $1.2 million in assets—most of the latter being Seattle-area condos headed for foreclosure. At his New Mexico home, he claimed to lead a Spartan existence, his only assets being kitchen utensils, glasses, two TV sets, and a twin bed with a fur bedspread, he said.
“These [asset] schedules are as complete as possible,” he wrote. “However, debtor does not have records.” Preposterous as that may seem, a statement from the widower of Hazelrigg’s accountant corroborates it to a degree. According to the widower—whose wife died of cancer the same month Hazelrigg was taken to bankruptcy court—any documents in his wife’s possession, if she’d had any, “are now destroyed.” They could have been on her old computer, he said. But it had been infected by a “nasty virus” and was thrown out.
In his court filings, Hazelrigg indicates he just isn’t sure what he had and lost. But he listed some impressive possible assets—including “10,000–11,000 Lots in Development” in South Carolina, Arizona, Idaho, and Washington. He also listed five watches, a Chihuly painting and two glass vases, and his Stanford football rings, altogether valued at $120,000 and which he claimed as exempt from bankruptcy seizure. He was uncertain of the fate of many of his former businesses, jotting down such responses as “Do Not Know Which Ones May Still Exist” or “Maybe. But Think They May All Be Out Of Business.” Apparently still worried that the information could be used against him in a criminal case, he once again noted, “The debtor claims a 5th amendment privilege as to any further information.”
Last October, trustee Miller challenged Hazelrigg’s filing, objecting to “concealments” in the listing. Miller claims Hazelrigg didn’t report the transfer of unidentified assets to another entity, nor had he responded to a subpoena seeking documents on the whereabouts of identifiable assets: a $900,000 art collection and almost $500,000 worth of cars, including a Range Rover, a Mercedes, and three Bentley models. He also wanted to know what happened to roughly $83 million in property, stock, business holdings, and fees receivable that had flowed Hazelrigg’s way over the years. Miller is still awaiting answers, and the case remains open.
In the indictment last week for failing to pay $533,000 in taxes over a three-year period, Hazelrigg is further accused of hiding assets and spending extravagant amounts while avoiding his obligations. IRS Special Agent Brandon Gleason says Hazelrigg illegally funneled business income into secret accounts. He used the funds to buy a Bellevue penthouse, two Chihuly chandeliers worth $460,000, more than $1 million in chips at West Coast casinos, and $160,000 in thoroughbred horses, and to hire a butler—all the while failing to pay his back taxes.
He’ll be arraigned on the tax charges in October. And he has a new problem in his bankruptcy filing: Because of his failure to properly disclose assets, he cannot be discharged from bankruptcy, a judge has ruled. As a result, whenever the case does close, creditors could still sue if they find any assets to seize. He’s appealing.
Rigby told Mastro’s creditors in May not to count on anything from Hazelrigg. “The primary remaining claim in this [Mastro] case is the claim in the Hazelrigg bankruptcy proceeding,” he wrote. “Any payment out of that estate, however, is at a minimum several years in the future. The Trustee will not likely be able to make a distribution to creditors beyond the one percent previously disbursed unless there is very significant success in the Hazelrigg bankruptcy proceeding or other property is recovered.”
In a recent interview, Rigby tells Seattle Weekly that the recovery of Linda’s jewels represents the biggest upside for Mastro’s creditors. “I’m negotiating with the FBI for them now,” he says, moving for release of the evidence so it can be sold. Besides the diamonds, there are necklaces, watches, earrings, and exotic baubles. An 82-page inventory includes two rare brooches—a large one shaped like a running cat and another, diamond-encrusted, formed as a lizard with a pearl head.
The jewelry has now come home. But without the Mastros. They’re staying in France, apparently forever.
n June 5 this year, a French court barred the U.S. from extraditing the Mastros due to humanitarian reasons—Linda’s mental health was in question and Mike was too old and in poor health. The U.S. would not agree in advance to releasing them on monitored probation should they be convicted. (Under a plea deal offered by the U.S., Mike would have received a maximum two years in prison and Linda a one-year max in exchange for their voluntary return.) When the U.S. announced two weeks later that it would not challenge the French ruling, the Mastros were officially free. To live in France, anyway.
Emily Langlie, spokesperson for Seattle U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, would not speculate on what could happen if the Mastros cross the French border and are stopped in another country, nor say whether authorities in other countries are on the watch for the couple. But, Langlie says, “The criminal case remains active and open,” adding: “Of course, our office encourages any accused person to voluntarily come forward at any time.”
The Mastros don’t appear to be in the volunteering spirit for now. Since their arrest and release, they have issued several statements in which they come off as sore winners. They deny any criminal actions, and blame Rigby for making them flee. “Since the Trustee did make a personal affair of this case,” they said, “we had to hurry to find a safety exit just to survive.”
Says Rigby: “Personal? I don’t know exactly what they were talking about. . . . I just tried to do a good job.
“Now that Mastro is protected by the French from the consequences of his theft and deceit, he is not satisfied boasting of his cleverness.” Criticizing him, Rigby says, shows “Narcissism, indeed, has no boundaries!”
The Mastros acknowledge they made mistakes, but they are good people, they indicated in one statement, and running to another continent was their way of getting some air. “Mike has always been a patriot, charitable, and loyal businessman and great husband,” they said. “We were not fugitives. We just tried to take a step back to breath[e] and think. When we left, we were not considered criminals.”
Life in France appears to be beneficial for the couple, now 88 and 63. As they chatted in June with Goodley, the Guardian reporter, “They were very well dressed, appeared in excellent health, and came over as very relaxed,” Goodley tells Seattle Weekly.
Before moving to their hamlet apartment, Goodley says, the couple lived in a magnificent home in nearby upscale Veyrier-du-Lac, paying a monthly rent of 5,000 British pounds—about $7,700 US. They had been selling their jewels and gold bars to pay their way, the couple told him. Today, their jewels confiscated, they live on a $2,000 monthly SS pension and donations from friends, they said.
“[Rigby] thinks to this day that we have much money buried overseas,” Mike Mastro told the reporter. “We don’t have a cent in that respect.” They complained that Rigby has collected more than $20 million but distributed only about $2.5 million to unsecured creditors so far, while taking a large chunk—roughly $10 million—for his own fees and those of accountants and attorneys.
Says Rigby: “They have stolen property which belongs to the creditors, fled to France, and now seek to rile up the creditors by criticizing my administration of the estate.” But he takes it as a backhanded compliment, he says: “If I was not being effective at my job of finding their property and taking it away from them, they would not be bothered by me.”
Once Rigby obtains the jewels, their sale should generate another one percent for creditors, giving investors a two-cent return on the dollar, he says. But that may be the end of it. “If Michael Mastro left any evidence of other assets,” he says, “I haven’t found it”—although he doubts the Mastros are living purely on their retirement check, and wonders which friends are helping out. “They already have taken over $100 million from their [investor] friends, so that well is likely dry.”
Actually, the Mastros would like to hit up those investor friends one final time—for that extra penny they could earn from the jewel sale. Their French attorney, reporter Goodley says, told him they plan to appeal the Seattle federal court ruling that required Linda to turn over her rings and other bling.
She had already appealed the ruling. But in February, a Seattle judge concluded that Linda had no standing to ask for the assets’ return because she was a fugitive. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is likely to settle the issue now.
In any case, Linda Mastro wants her rings back. Turns out diamonds aren’t something you forget, after all.