When Gudrun Block-Sabanovich and her husband Nicholas, a retired Stanford professor, moved from Palo Alto to Sonoma County, the pair amassed a sizable real estate portfolio in the 30 years they lived in the area. Eventually, the couple settled in Wikiup, California.
After Nicholas’ death in 2015, Theodore Smith Hudson III, the couple’s longtime handyman, became a caretaker for Block-Sabanovich. She and her late husband had no surviving children.
It did not take long for Hudson’s true intentions to emerge. He began to take advantage of the mourning widow’s loneliness and overall emotional state. His manipulation started with demands for a $50,000 annual salary from the widow or he would quit. Later, he ordered his “boss’ to double his pay to $100,000.
He also convinced Block-Sabanovich to add his name to all of her bank accounts and transfer all of her assets to him. In the portfolio were 10 commercial investment properties in California, Nebraska and Texas valued at an estimated $18 million and generating $90,000 per month in rent.
Last summer, Block-Sabanovich uncovered the scam after discovering a $300,000 transfer from one of her accounts. She confronted her trusted “employee.” Without hesitation, he admitted that the six-figure sum only scratched the surface. He transferred a total of $1.5 million to buy a 4,000-square foot luxury home in Cloverdale.
Finally realizing that Hudson had taken everything from her, she immediately filed a civil lawsuit.
On August 10, jurors in Sonoma County Superior Court awarded nearly $10 million in damages to Block-Sabanovich. The verdict came after a mere four hours of deliberation following a five-week civil trial.
Even after Hudson returns the property to its rightful owner, his legal troubles are far from over. Prosecutors have charged him with elder theft and fraud with a white-collar enhancement. The so-called caretaker could be eligible for a downsized and potentially “nightmarish” prison cell if convicted, a far cry from his “dream house.”