Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wisconsin Feds Convict Scammer Accused Of Using 'Sewer Service' Racket To File Small Claims Lawsuits, Score Default Judgments, Then File Wage Garnishments Against Multiple Unwitting Victims

In Madison, Wisconsin, The Chippewa Herald reports:

  • A scheme involving small claims courts has resulted in an Eau Claire man being found guilty of 50 counts of mail fraud in federal court, including cases from Chippewa County.

    Bernard C. Seidling, 61, was convicted by Judge Barbara B. Crabb on Dec. 26 for the scheme that ran from 2003 through 2009. He will be sentenced at 1 p.m. March 21. Seidling could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the 50 charges.

    According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Seidling filed suits in small claims courts where he lied about the defendants addresses and his attempts to serve them with court papers.

    Prosecutors said Seidling knew the attempt to serve papers either had not been made or could not be made, because the defendants didn’t live at the address Seidling gave.

    Seidling claimed $5,000, the maximum allowed, in each of the lawsuits and obtained default judgments. He would then use the judgments to file wage garnishments against the victims and their property.

    The victims included a couple who were renting a farm in Chippewa County in 2002 until moving in 2003. Seidling filed a lawsuit in Iron County and a transcript was sent to the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department. Seidling eventually asked for an earnings garnishment of $5,141.79.

    Another victim was a man who owned an engineering firm that contracted with another company for surveying and subdivision design in Chippewa County in 2002. Six years later, a company run by Seidling filed a lawsuit against the engineering firm, claiming its address was now in Hayward. That wasn’t the case.

    Another Seidling company in 2009 sued Footsmart, a shoe retailer in Norcross, Ga. However, Seidling listed Footsmart’s address as Main Street in Chippewa Falls, and claimed a representative tried to serve papers to Footsmart there. The address he used for Footsmart in Chippewa Falls was instead a property in foreclosure.

    A nurse for the Barron County Public Health Department was sued in 2009 by Seidling, but listed the nurse’s address as East Columbia Street in Chippewa Falls. The nurse never lived in Chippewa Falls.

    Another victim was a lawyer working for the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee. She and her son lived in a rental house.

    One of Seidling’s companies filed a lawsuit and listed the woman and her son’s address as Second Avenue in Chippewa Falls. Neither the woman or the son ever lived in Chippewa Falls. The property Seidling listed was in foreclosure at the time of the lawsuit.

    He filed notices of lawsuits with various publications, including some with Chippewa Valley Newspaper publications.

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