By Bay City News Service
Amended charges that could result in a slightly stiffer prison term were filed Friday against an Alameda County Superior Court judge who's accused of stealing at least $1.6 million from a 97-year-old neighbor in the Berkeley Hills over the course of more than a decade.
Judge Paul Seeman, 58, was initially charged last June 15 with one count of elder theft and 11 counts of perjury for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from his neighbor, Anne Nutting, after her husband, Lee Nutting, died in 1999 at age 90.
The amended complaint filed Friday, which isn't based on any additional evidence, charges Seeman, who is free on bail, with 12 counts each of perjury and offering a false or forged instrument, three counts each of elder theft and grand theft and two counts of unauthorized disclosure of information. All the counts are felonies except for the two counts of unauthorized disclosure of information, which are misdemeanors.
A declaration filed in court by Berkeley police officers, who investigated Seeman for more than two years, alleges that Seeman sold off Nutting's art collection and other possessions, tried to bar her from her own home and used her garage to store his 1958 Ford Thunderbird.
Seeman initially befriended Nutting in December 1998 after her husband suffered a fall at the couple's home on Santa Barbara Road in Berkeley and police deemed the home to be uninhabitable due to hoarding, according to the declaration. The Nuttings then moved into the Radisson Hotel at the Berkeley Marina.
Seeman offered to help the Nuttings because they were all alone and had no one to rely on because they had no family, no children and no friends, the statement says.
In January 1999, Seeman obtained a durable power of attorney for the Nuttings after finding $1 million worth of stock certificates and uncashed dividend checks in their house, according to the statement.
Lee Nutting died on Dec. 29, 1999, and between April and June 2000, Seeman arranged the sale of two properties the Nuttings owned in Santa Cruz, according to Berkeley police.
By August 2004, Seeman had taken over almost all of Anne Nutting's financial affairs, putting his name on her bank accounts as joint tenant and on her investment accounts as a transferee on death, the statement says. There was more than $2.2 million in the accounts at that time, according to the statement.
In March 2010, Nutting's attorney went to Berkeley police and reported that Nutting, who was 97 at the time, was a victim of financial elder abuse at the hands of Seeman, the statement said.
Nutting died the following month on April 17, 2010.
According to the probable cause statement, all Superior Court judges must file statements of economic interests, signed under penalty of perjury, declaring all sources of income and personal loans, but Seeman failed to disclose a $250,000 personal loan from Nutting.
The statement says Seeman also failed to report investments totaling more than $1.4 million in 40 local properties between March 2003 and June 2009.
Seeman earned his law degree from the University of California at Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law and his bachelor's degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Seeman, who is a Democrat, was appointed by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in March 2009. He served as a court commissioner for Alameda County Superior Court from 2004 to 2009 and served as a referee pro tem for the county's Juvenile Court from 1991 to 2004.
The criminal case against Seeman is moving slowly and he hasn't had a preliminary hearing yet. His next scheduled hearing is on April 18, which is only for the purpose of scheduling a preliminary hearing.
A judge has approved a request by Seeman's attorney, Michael Markowitz, that Seeman not be required to be present for all of his court hearings.
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