MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) – The man accused of using the state court system to win small claims judgements based on false representation lawsuits he filed has been convicted of 50 counts of mail fraud in federal court.
A jury found Bernard Seidling, 61, of Eau Claire guilty on the charges on December 26. Sentencing is scheduled for March 21. He could face 1,000 years in prison.
A federal grand jury says Seidling tried to hide the filings of the lawsuits from the defendants by giving false addresses or giving false information in court documents.
MADISON, Wis. (NEWS RELEASE) - John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Bernard C. Seidling, 61, Eau Claire, Wis., was found guilty of 50 counts of mail fraud by Judge Barbara B. Crabb on December 26, 2012. From 2003 through 2009, Seidling engaged in a fraud scheme in which he used the Wisconsin small claims court system to obtain small claims judgments against individuals and corporations based on false representations in lawsuits he filed. Judge Crabb scheduled sentencing for March 21, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. Seidling faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each of the 50 charges.
The defendant and the United States agreed that the criminal charges could be resolved without a jury trial. The parties stipulated to the facts and disputed only the law that applies to those facts. The defendant acknowledged that he deceived small claims courts, clerks of court, and process servers, but he maintained he did not deceive the actual victims of his scheme to defraud, and therefore could not be found guilty. The Court accepted the government's arguments, and found Seidling guilty of all 50 fraud charges. (Judge Crabb's opinion and order is attached to this press release).
In summary, Seidling filed suits in Wisconsin small claims courts against individuals and corporations in which he lied about their addresses and attempts to serve them. He submitted false documents to convince the small claims courts that he had process servers attempt to serve the defendants when, in fact, those attempts either had not been made, or, as Seidling knew, would be unsuccessful because he knew the defendants did not live at the addresses he had provided.
In each of these lawsuits Seidling usually claimed the maximum allowed of $5,000 (as of the time in the indictment). He hid filings of the lawsuits from the victims of his scheme (the defendants in the lawsuits), and then obtained default judgments. Once he obtained these fraudulent default judgments, he filed them in the county where the victims actually lived or owned property, and also used them to attempt to file wage garnishments against the victims and the victims' property.
U.S. Attorney Vaudreuil stated that this successful prosecution is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Sheriffs' Departments of Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Chippewa, Dane, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Iron, Jackson, Pierce, Polk, Sawyer, and Washburn Counties; and Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation. The prosecution of the case has been handled by United States Attorney Vaudreuil.