You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Wisconsin

Friday, January 4, 2013

Eau Claire Man Found Guilty Of Fraud

Madison, Wis. - 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.

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.

Updated July 14, 2015