Who Forged a Judge’s Signature in a Lawsuit?

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LOCUST GAP -- For six years, Bob Bechtel and his family rented a now condemned home in Kulpmont.

In June 2009, Bechtel says the metal cellar doors in the backyard shifted.

When he took it upon himself to build reinforcements, Bechtel says the whole structure collapsed.

"And it caught me from here," said Bechtel pointing to his neck. "It went down around to this side of my neck and blew a disc out in my neck."

Bechtel says the injuries from the collapse were so severe that he was forced to miss work. He hired attorney Stephen Ellwood from Schuylkill County to sue his landlord for medical costs and lost wages. Records show that in 2010, notice of intention to sue was filed in Northumberland County Court.

Bechtel says negotiations for a settlement seemed slow. Then in April 2013, he got a document via mail. It appears to show a Northumberland County judge awarded him $250,000.

"End of the trail. I won. I'm done," thought Bechtel.  "All I have to do is get paid, and I'm on down the road."

But a year went by and Bechtel didn't get paid. He says Stephen Ellwood stopped returning his calls.

So last spring, Bechtel hired another lawyer, Thomas Waffenschmidt of Williamsport.

"Something fishy's going on. Something isn't right here," said Waffenschmit of Bechtel's situation.

Waffenschmidt said he saw a problem when he took a close look at the settlement order.

"The judge's signature is not his real signature, and most importantly, the name is misspelled," said Waffenschmit. "I have no idea as to why anyone would be so stupid as to forge a judge's signature."

Waffenschmidt learned the settlement notice is not even in the case file at the Northumberland County Prothonotary's office in Sunbury.

He contacted judge Charles Saylor, who confirmed the signature in his name was forged.

As a result, a state grand jury opened a criminal investigation.

"Is it a fraud? Absolutely. There's no question about it," said Waffenschmidt.

We tried to contact Stephen Ellwood via phone and at his home in Orwigsburg. No one answered the door.

"Will I ever get an answer? I doubt it," says Bob Bechtel, who says he can't pay medical bills from the accident.

And he may be out of options. The statute of limitations for him to serve his ex-landlord with paperwork to continue the lawsuit has expired.

"I`m not going to see my justice and I'm not going to see a dime," Bechtel said.  "I bet my bottom dollar. I'm not going to see a dime."

Because grand jury information is confidential, we don't know when or if anyone will face criminal charges for the apparent forgery of a judge's signature.

14 comments

  • dgreen1207

    And, unfortunately for this gentleman, this attorney does not carry professional liability insurance.

    • dgreen1207

      It looks like he used to work for Krasno, Krasno and Onwudinjo. But, it doesn’t appear that he still does.

    • Perry Mason

      The same lawyer who forged the judge’s signature probably also lied to Mr. Bechtel about the status of his case.

    • Gerald

      I guess everyone is supposed to have an attorney background…the whole case is a fraud..all documents were fraud. And to be up on his case? All documents stamped by a several courts with signatures then a settlement offer. Nothing through a flag until he admitted there was no money and he lied. No other parties were involved that were claimed to be, not even the landlord. He signed other attorney signatures. Like I said there more. This story is just about the the county judge forgery, not all details about the case.

    • dgreen1207

      When you hire a professional, you have the right to assume that your case is being handled appropriately. Lay people don’t have the knowledge of the inner workings of the legal system. According to information on the net, this was not a young lawyer. Whether or not a staff member did this remains to be seen. But, blaming the victim is not appropriate in this situation.

  • Gerald

    This is my father….the story isn’t all there. There is more to it, much more! So quit with ignorant remarks. Landlord did nothing and there is prior civil suits against the him. You have no idea what this has done to the family and I ain’t even about the money. Its about how it was handled and prolonged.

    • SCS

      He should ahve filed with homeowners or his renters insurance for reimbursement. I feel bad he got hurt but if he took it upon himself then you assume the risks of the work. If the landloard was not doing anything then you go to civil court to get it fixed or move out. If I saw many civil suits against the landlord I wouldnt move into his home.

  • BZ22

    When renting, it’s never advisable to “take it upon yourself” since it appears that’s what his outcome will be!

  • Lloyd Schmucatelli

    Did you have written permission from your landlord to be working on HIS PROPERTY???? You probably forged the signature yourself.

    • Nope

      That would make sense, but the intention was filed, and then the signed document was emailed to him from the lawyer. So the lawyer singed it.

Comments are closed.