Local judge on trial for embezzling millions from elderly neighbor

ABC7 News/Courtesy

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Alameda County Superior Court Judge Paul Seeman was arraigned on charges of elder financial abuse and 11 counts of perjury Friday.

Seeman, 57, is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Law and recently presided over a case in March in which he issued stay-away orders to four Occupy Cal protesters, requiring them to stay at least 100 yards away from the campus except to attend work and class. Seeman’s charges stem from his relationship with Anne Nutting, an elderly neighbor who died in 2010, from whom prosecutors say Seeman stole at least $1.6 million stretching back to 1999.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick said that Seeman was to be arraigned Friday afternoon at Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse.

“This is the first step in legal proceedings to decide what will happen next,” Drenick said.

Seeman entered the lives of his elderly neighbors Lee and Anne Nutting after the fire department deemed their house uninhabitable due to hoarding. According to documents from the Alameda County Superior Court, Seeman, a juvenile law attorney at the time, offered to help them while they moved to the Radisson Hotel near the Berkeley Marina since they did not have any children, family or friends.

After discovering that the Nuttings had $1 million worth of stock certificates and uncashed dividend checks in their home, Seeman obtained a durable power of attorney status in 1999, putting him in charge of managing all of their financial assets and taxes. Lee Nutting passed away in December of that year. The following June, Seeman allegedly began to sell the Nuttings assets by selling their properties in Santa Cruz.

“By August, 2004, Seeman had taken over almost all of the victim’s financial affairs, putting his name on her bank statements as a joint tenant and on her investment accounts as TOD (transferee on death),” the documents read. “At this time there was an excess of ($2.22 million) in the accounts.”

From there, Seeman allegedly went on to sell several of Nutting’s assets, including her art print collection, a Lionel train set and stamp and coin collections, according to court documents.

After convincing Nutting to loan him the $250,000 made from auctioning off the art print collection, he promised he would pay the loan back at a 3 percent monthly interest rate but only made eight payments, according to court documents.

One of the counts of perjury for which Seeman is being charged is for failing to report the loan in his Statement of Economic Interest, a mandatory disclosure which all judges and several other government employees must disclose, according to Drenick.

In 2007, after returning to her home on Santa Barbara Road after nearly nine years living at the hotel, Nutting hired a different attorney who sought to revoke Seeman’s durable power of attorney status and put an end to his involvement in her financial affairs. Seeman allegedly refused to comply.

Before Nutting passed away at the age of 97 in April 2010, her attorney contacted Berkeley Police Department to report that she had been the victim of elder financial abuse at the hands of Seeman.

Seeman was contacted by police soon after and repaid the remainder of the $250,000 loan but refused to disclose an account of his activities as durable power of attorney.

Seeman was arrested Thursday morning after a prolonged investigation. He was being held Thursday evening at a downtown Oakland jail but was freed Friday after posting $525,000 bail.

Seeman’s next court date is scheduled for July 3.