An Alameda County judge was charged in a financial elder abuse case, authorities announced Thursday, after they say he stole thousands of dollars from his Berkeley neighbor, sold off her art, and used his garage to store his Thunderbird.
Judge Paul Seeman, 57, was taken into custody at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse, where he has been presiding in downtown Oakland, according to news reports including the San Francisco Chronicle.
He was charged with one count of elder theft and 11 counts of perjury, all felonies, as well as enhancements alleging that he stole at least $200,000. He was being held Thursday evening at a downtown Oakland jail in lieu of $525,000 bail.
When a reporter at the Chronicle called the Seeman's home, a woman hung up. Neighbors told the newspaper that the judge was a great and helpful man.
"The alleged conduct of Judge Seeman is disappointing and disturbing. His alleged conduct is in no way a reflection of the outstanding judicial officers serving Alameda County," said Teresa Drenick, an Alameda County deputy district attorney.
After a two-year investigation, Berkeley police said Seeman, who has overseen several Occupy Cal protester cases, started off as a neighbor who tried to help Anne Nutting and her frail husband, who were forced to leave their home.
Court records state that Seeman obtained power-of-attorney for the couple in 1999 after stating that he had found $1 million worth of stock certificates and uncashed dividend checks in their house.
After Lee Nutting died in December 1999, Seeman arranged the sale of two properties the couple owned in Santa Cruz, investigators said. They said Seeman handled Lee Nutting's estate in probate court but did not include the two Santa Cruz properties in the documents, the Chronicle reported.
Seeman kept taking more control, authorities said.
By August 2004, Seeman "had taken over almost all of the victim's financial affairs, putting his name on her bank accounts as joint tenant and on her investment accounts as TOD (transferee on death)," police wrote in the document. At the time, there was more than $2.2 million in the accounts, authorities said.
Seeman eventually sold off Anne Nutting's assets, court papers state.
In 2010, a year after Seeman became a judge, the Nutting's attorney contacted police to report the suspected embezzlement. After police contacted him, Seeman repaid the $250,000 loan but refused to provide an accounting of his transactions, authorities said, the newspaper reported.
Prosecutors charged him with perjury for allegedly failing to disclose the loan on annual statements of economic interest that all judges must file. They said he also failed to report investments totaling more than $1.4 million in 40 local properties - investments made between 2003 and 2009.