Gill hit with one of largest jury awards in N.H. history

CONCORD – Years of publicly accusing people of criminal behavior and corruption caught up with Michael Gill, when a jury Friday awarded $274.5 million in damages in a libel lawsuit three Manchester-area businessmen had filed against the outspoken financial mogul in response to his pervasive allegations.

Gill, the owner of Mortgage Specialists, with offices in Nashua, Manchester and Plaistow, has been hit with a one of the largest jury awards in New Hampshire history. The award, much like Gill’s very public and targeted campaigns, was meant to send a similarly bold message, the plaintiff’s counsel Steve Gordon, indicated. Gordon’s clients – AutoFair owner Andy Crews, Manchester developer Dick Anagnost and Primary Bank founder William Greiner – were among those featured on Gill’s digital displays.

“The size of the verdict will forever be the answer to Gill’s false statements,” Gordon said.

Gill was accused of targeting businessmen, politicians, lawyers and judges in his electronic messages through the years, sometime for reasons that were not always clear, according to testimony in the case.

Crews, an auto dealership CEO, testified he didn’t understand why he was attacked. He said Gill’s accusations hurt his family and his business.

“Somebody had to turn around and stop the bully,” WMUR-TV reported Crews saying in court.

LIBEL LAWSUIT

Gill put up images of Crews, as well as Anagnost and Greiner, accompanied by the words “drug dealer” and “extortion,” on a large billboard outside his Manchester office. He also made similar references to these men online, and on radio and TV.

The three businessmen who sued Gill had donated money to the development of a nonprofit drug and alcohol recovery treatment center. Their lawsuit stated Gill falsely accused them of crimes and demonstrated “ill will, evil motive, intent to injure and wanton disregard” for their rights.

Earlier this month, a judge found Gill liable for damages, and a trial took place this week to determine the amount the plaintiffs would receive in compensation for those damages. The trial culminated with Friday’s award by the jury against Gill.

Gill took to social media after Friday’s announcement and continued to contest the verdict, in a lengthy post on a Facebook page titled State of Corruption NH (see the breakout box for Gill’s complete posting). He is expected to appeal the decision, saying it was a “fix from the beginning.”

“My purpose was to expose NH giving you the absolute evidence of the depth of corruption and to use NH as a domino to expose corruption in every state,” Gill wrote in the Facebook statement. “I have exposed politicians, judges and law enforcement with absolute evidence and witnesses.”

He also posted a 15-minute video, which he alleged supported some of his claims. The link to that video is https://www.facebook.com/stateofcorruptionnh/videos/1683110898427150/.

Gill, who has run The Mortgage Specialists for 27 years, was considered one of the largest mortgage providers in New Hampshire.

PREVIOUS FINES

Friday’s award was the latest in a long string of legal action surrounding Gill and his use of his business signage as a vehicle for political and personal statements. In April, a district court judge in Nashua fined Gill $31,900 in civil penalties after he failed to appear for a hearing on violations of city ordinances regarding his electronic sign in front of 327 Amherst St. location in Nashua.

In 2014, The Telegraph extensively reported about signs at that same location. At that time, Gill was accused of using the sign “to hurl accusations of corruption against a huge swath of New Hampshire government.”

“I put this (the messages) on my signs because … this state is more corrupt than the people who are going to jail for organized crime,” Gill said, noting.

Gill said signs at his other three offices, in Manchester, Plaistow and Somersworth, bear similar messages.

He programmed the signs because government officials “refuse to do something” and “want me to shut up. I won’t shut up.”

The messages, in bright orange, red and blue, accuse the state Banking Department, the Attorney General’s Office, the judicial systems and judges, select high-profile lawyers and “multiple politicians” of being corrupt.

The sign also accused the Banking Department of running a Ponzi scheme, the attorney general’s office of a cover up and then-Gov. Maggie Hassan of having her “eyes closed” to the problems.

BAD BLOOD

In 2014, it was reported Gill’s accusations likely stemmed from a deteriorating relationship with state and other government officials that began in 2008, when his company was fined $425,000 by the state Banking Department. The department accused the company of illegal activity that included forging signatures and destroying records.

Banking Department spokesman Richard Arcand said at that time department officials were aware Gill had posted the messages.

Court documents revealed more than two dozen orders involving The Mortgage Specialists, split roughly equally between two time frames – July 2008 to June 2009 and April to November 2013.

The earlier group lists Gill and three other individuals as defendants, while those from 2013 list Gill’s name alone.

A ruling, issued Sept. 17, 2013, granted the Banking Department a default judgment, based on the fact Gill and his attorney walked out of court during the proceedings, according to court documents.

The Mortgage Specialists business was fined $8,000, while Gill personally was fined $5,000, the documents stated.

Other accusations Gill leveled in 2014 targeted Banking Commissioner Glenn A. Perlow and his predecessor, Ronald A. Wilbur, both of whom Gill claimed were involved in the overall “coverup” by “members of the club.”

Gill also insisted, “I was the one” who brought the “FRM Ponzi scheme” to the attention of the attorney general’s office, referring to the Financial Resources Mortgage scandal in which scores of investors were bilked out of various amounts of money.

Gill went as far as to suggest some state officials, including former banking commissioner Peter Hildreth, had knowledge of the scandal and were involved in covering up the wrongdoing.

Hildreth was found to have mishandled the FRM scandal, but then-Gov. John Lynch and the Executive Council allowed Hildreth to retire rather than remove him from office.

Gill said the hearing in which that decision was made was “bogus,” claiming that Lynch and the councilors agreed to let Hildreth retire “because Hildreth told them ‘if I go to jail, you all go with me?'”

Gill’s accusations even cover his tax returns, some of which he claimed “were forged,” without being more specific. He alleged he could prove the claim because “it was notarized by one of the top experts in the country.”

“Hey, maybe I’m crazy,” he said at one point. “But nobody is suing me. If I’m wrong, show me, tell me where I’m wrong. … I’ll show you where I’m right.”

Gill also harbors resentment over some aspect of how his divorce was handled, saying at one point in his 2014 interview that the state’s corruption “goes way beyond my divorce.”

Gill said his desire for New Hampshire residents “to take this state back” motivated him to put the messages on his signs.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF. Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.