LINCOLN — Patrick Combs, a former congressional candidate best known as the public address announcer at Nebraska football games, was sentenced Monday to five years of probation and fined $45,000 for taking funds from the estate of an elderly Lincoln couple.
The sentencing ended a lengthy case that involved two trials and claims by Combs’ attorney that the funds were money he was going to get anyway from a couple who considered him like a “son.”
Combs, 52, of Gretna, lost his job as PA announcer five days before charges were filed against him in 2015. An initial trial ended in a mistrial, but a second jury, in March, found him guilty of abuse of a vulnerable adult, theft and attempted theft, all felonies.
In explaining why he didn’t order Combs to prison, Lancaster County District Judge Robert Otte noted that Combs probably took care of the elderly couple better than some sons would and that no one lost money in the case.
Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Morgan Smith had asked for a prison term, arguing that Combs had exploited his close relationship with longtime family friend Beverly Mosher and her late husband, Harold Mosher. The couple had no children.
Not long before Beverly Mosher died in a residential care center for dementia patients in 2015, she signed a document that eliminated all beneficiaries of her $2 million estate except for Combs. She also had given Combs her power of attorney. However, there was conflicting testimony at the March trial about whether Mosher was mentally fit to make decisions.
Combs declined to comment after the short sentencing hearing.
His attorney, Bob Creager of Lincoln, argued Monday that there were no financial victims in the case and that after Combs was initially charged, the State Legislature reformed state criminal sentences, giving low-level felonies a presumption of probation. Creager said his client would have gotten the money he used for his own expenses upon Mosher’s death.
“We have the paradox that the route he took for the money seemed to be flawed or illegal or a misunderstanding,” Creager told the judge.
He called it a “misguided estate plan.”
But Otte said that a jury had rejected Combs’ explanation that he took the money early to avoid paying taxes on his inheritance.
“At the time you acted, the funds were not yours,” Otte said, telling Combs that his choices were “convenient, expedient and financially beneficial to you.”
Under the probation sentence, Combs was ordered to wear an ankle monitor, perform eight hours a month of community service and spend 180 days in jail, but the time behind bars was suspended unless he violates his probation terms. He was also barred from being a personal representative or having power of attorney for anyone, except close family members.
Combs was a two-time Democratic candidate for Congress, and he co-hosted a talk show on Lincoln radio station KLIN. He worked more than a decade as the PA announcer at Husker football games. His contract was not renewed shortly before his arrest.
He maintained that Beverly Mosher was fully capable of deciding what she wanted done with her estate and that her husband, a former assistant Nebraska attorney general, had urged him to start enjoying the money before the couple died to avoid a steep inheritance tax on nonrelative heirs.
Combs said that he, his wife and their two children frequently visited the Moshers and that he considered them a second set of parents. He testified that he did all kinds of work for them, and in return, they had paid for his college education, trips abroad and his wedding.
Court testimony indicated that Combs had spent about $113,000 of the Moshers’ money. When he attempted to transfer the remaining $1.75 million from Mrs. Mosher’s estate in late 2014, the transaction was blocked by the bank. The criminal charges were filed after that.