|For Immediate Release
Case # 12HF2546
September 4, 2012
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
ATTORNEY CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLING OVER $720,000 FROM CLIENT TRUST ACCOUNT BELONGING TO ELDERLY SISTERS HE KNEW THROUGH CHURCH
SANTA ANA – An attorney has been charged with embezzling over $720,000 from his client trust account from two elderly sisters after offering to assist them with their finances following the death of their mother. Peter David Nitschke, 45, Newport Beach, is charged with two felony counts of theft from an elder with sentencing enhancements and allegations for over $100,000 loss, aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, and property loss over $200,000. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in state prison. Detectives from the Irvine Police Department (IPD) arrested the defendant this morning. Nitschke is being held on $725,000 bail and is expected to be arraigned tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana.
In March 2010, the 95-year-old mother of 65-year-old Diane C. and 69-year-old Virginia C. died, leaving her daughters a home in Northern California and over $675,000 in bank accounts.
Nitschke, a then-Irvine-based attorney, is accused of being friends with the victim’s family and was president of their church congregation, the Lutheran Church of the Cross in Laguna Woods. The defendant is accused of offering to help Diane and Virginia C. settle the financial accounts and directed them to give him cashier’s checks in the amount of all the funds left to them in the bank accounts by their mother. He is accused of stealing over $675,000 from the victims by depositing the money into his personal bank accounts instead of placing it in his client trust account as required by the California State Bar. The defendant is also accused of stealing an additional $46,000 from the victim by failing to return the funds to them from a real estate transaction. Nitschke is accused of then spending the money or hiding it by moving it into other accounts.
In early 2012, the victims’ family inquired with the defendant about the money to assist Diane and Virginia C. with medical and nursing home expenses. Despite the account having been closed with a zero balance, Nitschke is accused of creating a fraudulent bank statement dated that month to falsely show that the funds were in his client trust account.
After becoming suspicious of the defendant’s handling of the accounts, the victim’s called IPD in May 2012.
IPD investigated this case. Deputy District Attorney Sean O’Brien of the White Collar Crime Team is prosecuting the case.