COLVILLE – The man charged with mistreating a 106-year-old Kettle Falls woman was arrested on theft charges Tuesday.
John H. “Herb” Friedlund, 78, is accused of raiding the retirement accounts of Frances T. Swan, who was discovered May 26 begging for food in her Kettle Falls home, which was riddled with dog feces, rotting food, guns and ammunition. The woman’s family members say more than $800,000 has been drained from accounts.
“This is completely ridiculous,” Friedlund said as a Stevens County sheriff’s detective placed him in handcuffs. “I probably won’t be alive tomorrow morning.” He was in court Tuesday for a previously scheduled hearing in the neglect case.
Friedlund had power of attorney over Swan’s affairs for the past decade. Timothy Tesh, a Seattle attorney representing Swan’s family, filed a civil petition Tuesday that removed Friedlund’s legal access to Swan’s affairs. In that document, Tesh alleged that Friedlund removed more than $800,000 from Swan’s retirement accounts and sent it by wire transfers to individuals living in Texas, California and England.
Friedlund’s attorney, Bevan Maxey, told Superior Court Judge Al Nielson he feared for his client’s health. After the hearing, Maxey presented a letter from Friedlund’s physician indicating that the suspect suffers from a history of congestive heart failure, has a pacemaker that needs to be replaced and has pulmonary hypertension.
The doctor “is concerned whether (Friedlund) will be able to physically survive in jail,” Maxey said. “We have a situation here where an elderly person with extensive medical problems is doing his best to take care of an even more elderly person.”
Maxey said his client befriended Frances Swan and her late husband, Severt Swan, years ago. County records show that the Swans sold Friedlund 134 acres fronting the Kettle River in 1985 for $6,000.
Then in 2001, Friedlund obtained the legal power of attorney over Swan’s affairs, which gave him access to all of her bank accounts.
Care providers who were paid to help Swan previously told The Spokesman-Review that Friedlund paid them out of Swan’s checking account and they also saw him buy personal items with her money.
The care providers said they complained about Friedlund’s treatment of Swan to state Adult Protective Services five years ago.
Tesh, the Seattle attorney, said last week that even though Friedlund had control of Swan’s accounts, he was bound by law to spend that money only for her benefit.
Detectives discovered Swan on May 26 when they went to arrest Friedlund on five counts of animal cruelty after neighbors reported starving horses on the 134 acres north of Kettle Falls.
Swan has since been placed in the Buena Vista nursing home in Colville, where she is thriving, prosecutors have said.