Sebec man pleads guilty to swindling blind man

Posted Nov. 09, 2009, at 7:14 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:08 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A Sebec man who bilked an 82-year-old blind man out of more than $10,000 pleaded guilty Monday to theft by unauthorized taking.

Herbert Swartz, 77, who entered his plea before Justice William Anderson in Piscataquis County Superior Court, said he felt the state could adequately prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. “I don’t wish to prolong it,” he said in the courtroom.

Swartz, who is in poor health, could face up to 10 years in prison and be fined up to $10,000 on the charge. His sentencing was continued.

Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said outside the courtroom Monday that he would recommend Swartz serve 45 days in the Piscataquis County Jail and be placed on probation until the restitution has been paid to the victim in the case.

Also charged in the case was Elizabeth “Bess” Cutler, 59, of Sebec. She and Swartz each were charged with forgery and theft by unauthorized taking involving a blind, seasonal Sebec resident whom they had befriended.

As part of a negotiated plea bargain, the charges against Cutler were dropped Monday after she paid $3,000 toward the restitution. In addition, the forgery charge against Swartz was dismissed.

“I certainly feel terribly ashamed,” Swartz. a former lawyer, told Anderson. He said he perhaps should write a novel about the experience.

The pair reportedly took the blind man, who winters in Stony Point, N.Y., and summers in Sebec Village, on errands to the bank and to grocery stores in the summer of 2008, according to a police report filed by Investigator Guy Dow of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department.

Dow initially had reported the couple had stolen nearly $20,000 from the blind man’s account, but the amount mentioned in court Monday for restitution regarding Swartz was $11,500. Dow said earlier in the investigation that the couple not only had made their mortgage and insurance payments from the blind man’s accounts and made assorted purchases, they also used the funds to purchase items from an auction house and to pay a veterinarian.

The theft became known after the blind man’s son started quizzing his father on why he was spending so much money from his various bank accounts, some of which were overdrawn, and his credit cards. The son then contacted police.

Dow, the investigator, subpoenaed the man’s bank records and discovered several purchases made by Swartz and Cutler.

The defendant’s attorney, Richard McCarthy Jr., said Monday that the victim and Swartz had a close relationship and that Swartz had handled a number of the blind man’s financial dealings for him, including signing his credit card for purchases the blind man made. Beyond that, he said, there were loans that were not documented.

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