Third Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister, whose district includes Columbia County, resigned unexpectedly last December.
Now, it turns out, according to a recently filed federal forfeiture complaint, the FBI has been investigating Siegmeister and his mother for stealing $985,000 in assets from the estate of a man who died in 2015.
That man was 80-year-old Leonard Thomas, who was a transient living in a motel in Lake City in 2010. He had been in the hospital for an unknown injury, and when he was released, he was transferred first to an assisted living facility in Live Oak and then another long-term care facility in Lake City. That’s where he encountered Siegmeister’s mother, Nancy Bowen.
In March 2010, a judge appointed Siegmeister as voluntary guardian for Thomas. Five weeks later, Thomas signed his will, in which his entire estate was bequeathed to Bowen. At the time, Thomas owned $664,000 in Coca-Cola stock and had $36,000 in the bank.
In 2015, a probate court ordered Siegmeister to file reports detailing how money was spent on behalf of Thomas. The federal complaint details numerous expenditures listed in the reports which the FBI said were either fictitious or over-reported. In one case, an expenditure for $10,264.22 to a hospital was reported. However, according to federal investigators, the hospital only received a payment of $264.22. Similar reports were made following Thomas' death, as his estate was being administered.
The value of Thomas' holdings kept rising after his death in 2015, and the FBI says “Siegmeister diverted a total of $985,000 in Thomas' assets to himself” after Thomas died.
The FBI’s investigation of Siegmeister began in 2018 following allegations of a bribery scheme in which Siegmeister was accused of having “solicited money or things of value from defendants and lawyers in exchange for favorable prosecution treatment.”
Siegmeister was elected in 2015.
The FBI interviewed his mother on Dec. 5 2019, and he resigned two weeks later.
The FBI is seeking forfeiture of two properties owned by Siegmeister, saying he acquired them through “money-laundering.” The forfeiture complaint details how federal investigators say Siegmeister used proceeds of stock sales to make some mortgage payments on the property the government is seeking.
Neither Siegmeister nor his mother are facing any criminal charges at this time.