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Lawyer convicted of defrauding clients

February 04, 2014|By Hannah Fry

A Newport Beach attorney accused of stealing more than $780,000 from nine victims, some of whom he met at church, was convicted Monday, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.

Peter David Nitschke, 47, pleaded guilty to six felony counts of grand theft, two felony counts of elder financial abuse and one felony count of issuing a check with non-sufficient funds, according to a news release.

Nitschke is expected to be sentenced to up to 12 years in state prison on April 4, the release stated. He also received white-collar-crime sentencing enhancements.

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In March 2010, the 95-year-old mother of two of Nitschke's victims, identified as "Virginia C" and "Diane C," died, leaving them property in Northern California and more than $675,000.

Nitschke, who knew the women from the Lutheran Church of the Cross in Laguna Woods, offered to help them settle the financial accounts. He directed them to give him cashier's checks in the amount of all the money left in the bank accounts.

Instead of keeping the money in his client trust, Nitschke transferred the funds to his personal and business bank accounts. He also stole an additional $46,000 by failing to return to the women the funds from a real estate transaction, according to the release.

Nitschke allegedly spent the money or hid it by moving it into other accounts.

When the victims' family became suspicious in early 2012, Nitschke created a fraudulent bank statement to falsely show that the funds were in his client trust, the release said. The women remained suspicious and a few months later contacted police.

Nitschke was arrested in September 2012, and five additional victims came forward, the release stated.

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