Feds: Former state attorney took bribes, stole more than $600K from elderly man, his estate

Jeff Siegmeister accused of conspiracy, extortion, fraud, other charges

Jeff Siegmeister (WCJB-TV image)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jeff Siegmeister, who was state attorney representing Columbia and six other North Florida counties for nearly seven years until he resigned suddenly in December 2019, was indicted this week on federal charges including conspiracy, extortion, fraud and several other charges.

Siegmeister, 52, of Live Oak, was arrested Friday in Arizona, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

After Siegmeister’s resignation, his Gainesville-based lawyer said his marriage had just ended and that he was working through a personal matter. There was much more going on in his life.

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.”

According to a 37-page indictment, a grand jury charged Siegmeister with 11 counts related mostly to soliciting and accepting bribes in various cases between 2013 to 2019. Siegmeister is accused of soliciting and accepting bribes in return for the “favorable disposition” of criminal cases.

Marion Michael O’Steen, an attorney from Dixie County, who had clients prosecuted by Siegmeister’s office, was also indicted. In one case, investigators said Siegmeister asked O’Steen to purchase a bull from Siegmeister’s herd on his farm, in exchange for a favor for his client.

Another charge claims Siegmeister is accused of conspiring with another defense attorney, Ernest Page IV, to drop or reduce one DUI charge against a client of Page in exchange for a $10,000 discount on a new tractor -- or drop two DUI charges against the client for a $20,000 discount. Page was charged with conspiracy last year and pleaded guilty on August 20. He is currently scheduled to be sentenced in June.

News4Jax reported last year that the FBI had been investigating Siegmeister and his mother involving the theft of more than $600,000 in assets from the estate of an 80-year-old man who died in 2015. According to court records, Siegmeister was appointed guardian of Leonard Thomas, an elderly transient who was hospitalized in Lake City, then transferred first to an assisted living facility in Live Oak and then another long-term care facility in Lake City. Five weeks later, Thomas signed his will, in which his entire estate was bequeathed to Siegmeister’s mother.

The value of Thomas’ holdings kept rising after his death in 2015, and the FBI wrote that “Siegmeister diverted a total of $985,000 in Thomas’ assets to himself” after Thomas died.

Siegmeister is also charged with filing false tax returns in three separate years, federal prosecutors alleging he knew his income was higher than he reported.

Federal prosecutors said Siegmeister will make his initial appearance in court Monday in Flagstaff, Arizona. O’Steen appeared in federal court in Jacksonville and pleaded not guilty before being released on $100,000 bond.

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.