A prominent St. Paul philanthropist who rose from humble beginnings was taken for more than $1 million in jewelry and cash, authorities said.
John Nasseff, who turns 94 this month, was victimized by his personal care attendant, Nicholas Lofquist-Sprangel.
“He’s been such a great guy to the city and to anybody who needed help, and for this to happen to him is a sad thing, a very sad thing,” said Nasseff’s nephew, Steve Nasseff.
Lofquist-Sprangel, 23, of Andover, stole rings, cuff links, watches, jewelry, loose diamonds and cash. He pleaded guilty in January in Ramsey County District Court to one count of felony theft.
Lofquist-Sprangel told investigators that the Nasseff family paid him an “absurd” amount of money, but that he was “extremely stupid” with his finances so he stole from Nasseff, said court documents.
Nasseff, the son of Lebanese immigrants who spoke little English, has donated millions of dollars to several causes after rising from a job at West Publishing unloading boxcars to serving as its vice president.
Nasseff and his wife, Helene Houle, have donated to the new St. Paul police training facility, a plaza and historical displays at Eagan’s historic Town Hall, and a Mexican orphanage, and gave more than $10 million for a student center at Saint Agnes School in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood, among other causes.
According to authorities and Steve Nasseff: the family hired Lofquist-Sprangel in mid-October 2016 to care for Nasseff between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. He had come highly recommended, Steve Nasseff said.
His duties included walking Nasseff to the bathroom and around his home and getting him food.
“His job was very, very simple,” Steve Nasseff said. “We more than doubled his salary.”
Shortly after the hire, Steve Nasseff, who cares for his uncle in the daytime, noticed that items were going missing. He set up a surveillance camera.
“It wasn’t but two hours and I watched him empty my uncle’s wallet,” he said. “For three days he did that every night while he was supposed to be helping uncle in the bathroom.”
On top of stealing, he said, Lofquist-Sprangel failed to care for Nasseff.
Nasseff suffered a stroke in 2016 and used a walker. Doctors warned the family that open wounds could cause him to bleed to death because he was on blood thinners.
The family captured Lofquist-Sprangel on “several” surveillance videos rifling through drawers and taking items. They placed 25 $100 bills in the home to bait the thief.
Authorities discovered that Lofquist-Sprangel had sold several pieces of jewelry to a coin shop in Excelsior and pawned other items. They recovered 47 items valued about $1.4 million from Lofquist-Sprangel’s home.
Steve Nasseff said the family believes he stole more and that not everything has been accounted for.
“He’s pled guilty and accepted responsibility,” said Lofquist-Sprangel’s attorney, John Leunig.
Lofquist-Sprangel is scheduled to be sentenced in April.