Alabama Judge Arrested in $47,000 Fraud Scheme, Attorney General's Office Says
The Alabama Attorney General's office broke down the felony indictments against Limestone County Judge Douglas Patterson, 37. The judge was arrested on December 12 in Alabama.
The Attorney General's Special Prosecutions Division says Patterson used his position as a judge to receive $47,008.24 from the County's Juvenile Court Services Fund. The State's investigation revealed Patterson wrote about 70 checks to himself from this account over several years.
Those checks were either cashed or deposited into Patterson's personal bank account, his law firm's operating account and his law firm's client-trust account, WHNT News reports. It is not uncommon for sitting judges to own law firms.
Patterson is also accused of financial exploitation of the elderly. The State alleges "Patterson breached a fiduciary duty to Mr. Charles Hardy to obtain all of or a portion of $47,800 of Hardy’s conservatorship account’s money."
According to the State's investigation, Patterson became Hardy's conservator in March 2010. At the time, Hardy was incapacitated at a Limestone County nursing home for military veterans and had more than $43,000 in his account. By December 2016, the account had less than $200.
The State says Patterson had withdrawn $47,800 and placed it into his personal or business accounts for personal use. Some of those withdrawals took place after Patterson became a judge, according to the State investigation.
"In each of these instances, Patterson converted the money to personal use unrelated to Hardy’s care or well-being," the Attorney General's office said.
Hardy is now deceased.
"Regardless of where the money went, Patterson ultimately spent the money on himself or other personal expenses unrelated to the County’s juvenile-court system," the Attorney General's office said.
Patterson is also indicted for theft 3rd degree.
The State says Patterson "knowingly obtained or exerted unauthorized control over or knowingly obtained by deception" anywhere between $500-$1,500. The money belonged to Rudolph Allen, whom Patterson was previously a conservator for.
The State says Patterson made cash withdrawals from Allen's account for personal use after his death.
FBI Birmingham Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Jonnie Sharp Jr. said:
“When public officials misdirect money for personal gain, they’re breaching public trust – and breaking the law. Such corruption must not go unchecked. The public can be assured that no matter how long it takes, the FBI and our partners will investigate and work to hold accountable unscrupulous public officials.”
Due to these indictments, Judge Patterson is now formally suspended from serving as a district court judge. Limestone County Presiding Circuit Court Judge Robert Baker previously ordered Judge Patterson’s cases be reassigned to the county’s other judges while the State conducted its investigation.
Attorney General Steve Marshall said:
“The allegations contained in this indictment shock the conscience and illustrate a callous and selfish disregard for the law as well as the welfare of Alabama’s most vulnerable citizens: children and incapacitated seniors. If proven, Patterson’s actions debase the judicial system. I call on the trial court to hold a trial as soon as possible to begin the process of restoring the Limestone County community’s faith in its judicial system.”
In total Patterson is charged with use of official position or office for personal gain, financial exploitation of the elderly 1st degree, and theft 3rd degree.
If convicted, Patterson could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $30,000. He could also face up to 5 years in prison and a fine for the theft charge.