John "Herb" Friedlund, 78, would meet men on a website for gay men then wire money from Frances Swan's retirement account to help the online acquaintances in Ghana, England, Texas, California and New York pay for health problems they claimed to be battling, attorney Allan Ressler, who represents the family of Swan, told The Spokesman-Review.
Friedlund has been charged with theft for spending Swan's money. He said Swan authorized all of his payments.
"If someone wanted to do something wrong, they wouldn't keep meticulous records, and Frances and I did," Friedlund said the newspaper.
In a civil lawsuit, Ressler is seeking out-of-court settlements with an investment brokerage firm for its disbursements of Swan's retirement funds, and the state for failing to act on a number of complaints about Swan's living conditions.
But most of the money likely cannot be recovered, the lawyer said.
"My feeling is that there were a bunch of people who had information that should have alerted them to the problems that were going on in that household," Ressler said. "That system sort of broke down."
Friedlund has acknowledged purchasing a $13,000 car and paying for a surgery for a young man in Texas who he also invited to live in Stevens County, but said it was done with the consent and sometimes at the suggestion of Swan.
The case emerged last June when the Stevens County Sheriff's Office arrived at Swan's home to take Friedlund into custody on suspicion of animal neglect after neighbors reported there were starving horses on the property, the newspaper said.
Detective James Caruso walked into the home, which was littered with rotting food, guns and dog feces, and found Swan in a back bedroom, the paper reported, adding that Swan asked for food, saying Friedlund hadn't fed her since the day before.
That discovery prompted officials to move Swan to a nursing home, where she remains. Ressler began the civil process to recover the funds.
Friedlund told the newspaper he was the victim.
He said he met Frances and the late Severt Swan in the mid-1950s. They had no children and quickly became friendly with him and eventually referred to him as their son.
Friedlund said he started looking after Frances Swan because she did not have family other than nieces and nephews.
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