Criminal probe looks at former Vikings star Stu Voigt

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 14, 2012 - 11:34 PM

U.S. authorities targeted the retired tight end, who later headed a Bloomington bank.

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Stu Voigt played in Super Bowls for the Vikings in the 1970s. Now he faces a civil suit and possible charges of bank and wire fraud.

Photo: Charles Bjorgen, Star Tribune

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Ex-Vikings great Stu Voigt has already been sued for securities fraud, with bank regulators threatening to bar him from banking. Now the retired tight end is a target of a federal criminal investigation.

The U.S. Department of Justice has informed Voigt that he's being investigated for alleged bank and wire fraud "and other potential offenses," according to a copy of a short letter to Voigt from the U.S. Department of Justice dated Feb. 16 and signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lewis. It seeks a "pre-indictment resolution of this matter."

Voigt, who played for the Vikings in the 1970s, used to be the chairman of the board at First Commercial Bank, a Bloomington bank he invested in.

The target letter was attached to documents filed Monday in federal court in Minneapolis as part of a civil securities fraud fight between Voigt and a group of four investors that includes his former Vikings buddy, football Hall of Famer Ron Yary. That dispute is still a year from trial.

Voigt has asked the judge to put Yary's civil lawsuit against him on hold on the grounds that he can't effectively defend himself in the civil case while exercising his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in his criminal case.

In a memo filed in court Monday, Voigt's lawyer Bryan Feldhaus said the scope of the criminal investigation wasn't defined, but that he believes it's related to the same allegations in the civil case: that Voigt committed fraud in getting his close friend Yary and others to invest their money in companies Voigt was associated with called Assured Financial, Hennessey Financial and Jaguar Financial.

Voigt, 63, of Apple Valley, has denied all the allegations. He did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Voigt's lawyer on the criminal matter, Joe Friedberg, filed an affidavit Monday supporting the request to put the civil case on hold. The letter about Voigt being a target in a federal criminal investigation was attached to it.

A hearing on whether or not to stay the civil securities fraud case is set for March 26.

In an interview, Friedberg said he's not sure which agency is leading the criminal investigation and doesn't know much about it. He said he has asked the U.S. attorney's office for more time to formulate his next step.

Yary and the other investors are fighting the hold request. The criminal investigation is "another very serious indicator that these allegations that we made have traction," said their lawyer Kevin Magnuson.

The investors include Yary, who now lives in California; Ken Resnick, a close friend of Voigt's who lives in Edina; Resnick's 93-year-old mother, Marion, and Marion's friend Irving Braverman, 86, of Golden Valley.

Together they sued Voigt in early 2010, accusing him of bilking them out of more than $1 million after persuading them to make "safe, secure and guaranteed" investments in Assured Financial and Hennessey Financial, two companies in which Voigt was intimately involved.

Assured and Hennessey were financing Jeffrey A. Gardner, a national real estate developer who lived in the Twin Cities where he operated Heritage Development. Hennessey and Assured collapsed. Except for Yary, the group of investors supposedly lost their life savings.

During this time Voigt was also chairman at First Commercial Bank. In January, federal bank regulators disclosed that they've proposed barring Voigt from banking and fining him $125,000, citing a pattern of reckless misconduct and "personal dishonesty" while he was at the bank. Voigt allegedly engineered lines of credit to investment companies in which he himself was involved, such as Hennessey Financial.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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