Mail fraud suspect's fate lies with judge
In an unusual move, a federal court judge will decide by written testimony whether an Eau Claire man is guilty of 50 counts of mail fraud. The trial for Bernard C. Seidling, 61, who has an Eau Claire post office account but lists Marathon, Fla., ...
In an unusual move, a federal court judge will decide by written testimony whether an Eau Claire man is guilty of 50 counts of mail fraud.
The trial for Bernard C. Seidling, 61, who has an Eau Claire post office account but lists Marathon, Fla., as his address, was scheduled to begin next week.
A federal grand jury in the Western District of Wisconsin, sitting in Madison, indicted Seidling with 50 counts of mail fraud.
The indictment alleges that from 2003 through 2009, Seidling engaged in a fraud scheme in which he used the Wisconsin court system to obtain small-claims judgments against individuals and corporations based on false representations in lawsuits he filed.
The indictment also alleges that in the execution of the scheme, he caused mail to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service that contained fraudulent small claims case documents.
U.S. attorney John Vaudreuil, who is prosecuting the case, said Wednesday that the main contention is a legal issue, not one of Seidling's actions. Vaudreuil requested Judge Barbara Crabb examine the legal issue and make a ruling, which is expected in a few months.
"There is no dispute of the facts, that lies were made," Vaudreuil said. "He filed small claim lawsuits in counties where the defendants didn't live.
"The question boils down to a legal issue, of how he lied, whether he actually had to do it face-to-face," Vaudreuil said. "The judge will examine the facts and the attorneys' briefs and make a ruling."
Each count has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, but Vaudreuil expects Seidling, if convicted, to be sentenced to two to five years in prison.
Seidling was convicted in 1991 in federal court of interference of commerce by threat of violence and was sentenced to three years in prison and fined $12,000 plus restitution.
He is accused of filing suits in small-claims courts against individuals and corporations that contained false representations and usually claimed the maximum allowed amount of $5,000. He reportedly tried to hide the filings and obtain default judgments by falsifying the victims' addresses and falsifying in court documents facts regarding attempts to contact the victims.
He then used fraudulently obtained default judgments to attempt to file wage garnishments against the victims and judgment executions against victims' property.
Seidling, who had scores of fraudulent business titles, would basically file a claim against a person or business, using a fictitious address of the defendant. When the paperwork could not be delivered, Seidling was given a default judgment, usually for the maximum amount of $5,000, but did not receive any of the judgments, according to court records.
The FBI, state agencies and sheriff's departments from Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Chippewa, Dane, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Iron, Jackson, Pierce, Polk, Sawyer and Washburn counties were involved in the investigation.
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