Officers searched the judge's home earlier Thursday evening. It was the culmination of two-year investigation.
"He's a top-notch, stand-up guy. He contributes to the community," said neighbor Eve Howard.
Neighbors were shocked to learn that Alameda County Superior Court Judge Paul David Seeman is under arrest. Investigators left his home on Santa Barbara Road in the Berkeley Hills with boxes of evidence. Seeman is accused of stealing at least $1.6 million from a 97-year-old neighbor over the course of 13 years.
When asked if she thought these allegations were true, neighbor Lauren Ganes said, "They sound very surprising to me is all I can say."
The neighbor who Seeman is accused of stealing from died two years ago. Anne Nutting owned the home across the street and got to know Seeman in 1999, when he offered to help her and her husband with their legal troubles. The husband died later that year.
According to probable cause documents filed in court, Seeman had taken over almost all of Nutting's finances by August of 2004, adding his name on her bank and investment accounts -- at the time, totaling $2.2 million. Probable cause documents also say Seeman had unrestricted access to Nutting's home and eventually her safe deposit boxes.
He's accused of selling off her Lionel train set, stamp and coin collections, and art and print collections for a total of $250,000. In addition, probable cause documents say Seeman had invested $1,411,971 from 2004 and 2009 in 40 local properties, something he failed to report on his tax forms. Neighbors hope all of this is a misunderstanding, because the Seeman they know is a good man.
"He had a number of children, Vietnamese refugees who were here that he adopted, and they all had disabilities and so he was really a wonderful person," said neighbor Andy Ganes.
In a statement, spokesperson Teresa Dernick with the Alameda County District Attorney's Office wrote, "The alleged conduct of Judge Seeman is both disturbing and disappointing. His alleged conduct is in no way a reflection of the outstanding caliber of judicial officers serving Alameda County."