In Closing Arguments, Segal’s Lawyer Pins Blame Elsewhere, Calls Evidence Lacking

A defense attorney for Chicago broker Michael Segal told jurors Tuesday that prosecutors failed to call to the stand a key figure in the case—the former company bookkeeper who the government says helped Segal siphon millions from his insurance company.

“It takes two to make a tango of conspiracy,” defense attorney Daniel Reidy told the jury as he began his closing arguments in the racketeering and fraud case. “Without him testifying, their case cannot hold water.”

Segal is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his Near North Insurance Brokerage Inc. and looting a premium trust fund the company was required by law to maintain.

Prosecution witnesses have testified that former bookkeeper Daniel Watkins told them Segal asked him to take the money and pay Segal’s personal bills. But the defense argued that Segal thought the money was coming from a legitimate source, and Watkins was never called to the stand to testify otherwise.

Reidy said accounting was a mess at Near North and that Watkins, who pleaded guilty in March to stealing more than $70,000 from Near North for his own purposes, was to blame for any illegalities. Watkins said in his March plea agreement that he made payments to Segal’s wife and children but also that he took money for himself.

“The truth is Watkins was stealing like a son of a gun and nobody knows how much it was and they’re sticking it to Segal,” Reidy said. He said prosecutors knew the jury wouldn’t believe Watkins if he testified.

Prosecutors, in their closing arguments, portrayed Segal as a driven businessman who used his company’s petty cash as his personal piggy bank and raided a Near North premium trust fund of $35 million to expand his business empire.

“To the outside, he presented this facade of normality, of regularity,” Assistant U.S. Attorney William Hogan told the jury. “But on the inside, he and his business is corrupt to the core.”

Hogan said Segal regularly received envelopes of cash taken from the company’s petty funds to pay his family’s drivers and maids, buy expensive gifts and cover personal expenses. Over a three-year period starting in 1999, Hogan said, $682,000 was unaccounted for.

Jury deliberations in the case are likely to begin today.

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