LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) — It’s a nightmarish scenario: Someone files a trumped up lawsuit against you without you knowing; a judge rules against you in your absence; and you end up owing thousands of dollars.
In this Rip-Off Alert from Wisconsin -- and it has happened to dozens of victims.
Fraud victim Mark Woychik trusted Bernard Seidling, a soft-spoken man who was selling a dream piece of property.
“It was a beautiful little 5-acre piece of land on a hillside with a southern exposure. I fell in love with the land,” he said.
But now, $25,000 in legal fees later, he believes that was a serious mistake.
“We have spent countless hours, time, money trying to get justice,” Woychik said. “Not only trying to get justice, but trying to get him out of our lives.”
“Bernard Seidling would file bogus small claims actions in various courts throughout the state,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Dean Kowalefski. “He filed a lawsuit in a county in which the victim did not reside.”
By the time Woychik learned a court had ruled against him in his absence, he was facing a judgment of more than $5,000.
“The victims didn’t know they were being victimized,” Kowalefski said. “They wouldn’t find out until they wanted to sell their home or buy a car.”
“He preys on people who can’t afford lawyers,” Woychik said. “And if they don’t get a lawyer, and they roll over and try to walk away, he will come after them for the last penny.”
Authorities say Seidling has run the scam on 77 victims, attempting to extort them out of more than $370,000.
In the end, Seidling did not get any money from his victims. Instead, he ended up being sentenced to three years in federal prison and fined $10,000.
Authorities say people can protect themselves from this sort of scam by regularly checking their credit reports and running their names through the online listing of court cases in their state to make sure they are not the subject of a court action they don’t know about.