The late Harold William Olson was a frugal widower, a lifelong St. Paul resident who worked hard and lived simply in his modest home near Ford Parkway and the Mississippi River.

He also was vulnerable as he lay bedridden and unable to speak as his estate was swindled of at least $1.6 million, according to a criminal investigation now underway and a judge's orders in a civil lawsuit.

Beverly Jean Miller, the 77-year-old companion to whom he had given power of attorney over his care and finances, spent Olson's money on cash payments and china, crystal, furniture, airline tickets and other uses that didn't help him, according to allegations in search warrant documents recently filed in Ramsey County District Court. No charges had been filed against Miller as of Monday afternoon.

Olson, who died in May 2010 at age 87, never wanted to go into a nursing home, and he had remained at the house on the 600 block of Mount Curve Boulevard right up to the end with Miller, said an attorney for his estate.

After Olson died, it became clear that Miller had spent about $2 million over a 29-month period, and that most of the money was going to Miller and her family for their own uses, according to records and attorney John Gunderson of St. Paul.

Judge ordered payment

In August of last year, Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan ordered Miller to pay nearly $1.6 million to Olson's estate after finding that she paid herself and her relatives "grossly inflated amounts" for Olson's care and home maintenance.

Olson's will had given Miller, a nurse, the right to remain in the 2,000-square-foot house and be provided with $200,000 in living expenses, Gunderson said Monday. But, he said, she far exceeded that amount and didn't show receipts for much of it.

From December 2007 to May 2010, Miller spent $2.13 million from Olson's checking account, a fact not disputed by either side.

Checks, credit card payments

Miller signed many checks, including for a trip for eight people to San Diego, though there was no ticket for Olson himself, and another $236,818 in credit card payments, though Olson didn't have any credit cards in his name.

The cards were for Macy's, Victoria's Secret, Best Buy and other stores.

Miller also wrote checks for cash totaling $112,000, "but failed to provide any explanation or any accounting or responses to ... justify these expenses," Marrinan wrote.

Miller paid more than $127,000, purportedly for Olson's home maintenance, including more than $103,000 to Donald Miller for a one-page list of services and $13,000 to Dave Miller, both presumably her relatives, according to Marrinan's findings.

A sum of $27,000 would have been reasonable and necessary for that home maintenance, the judge found.

Miller had paid $1.24 million to herself and her relatives, including her granddaughter, for "nursing" services for Olson. Of that, $584,640 is the maximum amount that was allowed as necessary by the court.

The $1.24 million in payments, averaging $42,777 a month for 29 months, were "grossly excessive and unreasonable payments for purported nursing services," the judge found.

Information sent to police

After Olson's estate won the lawsuit in August, Gunderson forwarded the information to St. Paul Police, at the family's behest.

Sgt. Joshua Lego, of the St. Paul Police Family and Sexual Violence Unit, is investigating the case as an alleged crime against a vulnerable adult, court records show.

Miller, who has moved from Olson's house to an apartment in Aitkin, could not be reached for comment for this story.

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038