A Newport Beach attorney was convicted today of stealing more than $780,000 from nine victims, including some $720,000 from two elderly sisters he knew from church.
Peter David Nitschke, 47, pleaded guilty to a court offer 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, with white collar crime sentencing enhancements.
He is expected to be sentenced to up to 12 years in state prison at his sentencing April 4, 2014, according to a press release from the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
President of his congregation at the Lutheran Church of the Cross in Laguna Woods, Nitschke was friends with two elderly sisters who had lost their 95-year-old mom in 2010. He offered to settle the mom’s financial affairs and directed they “give him cashier’s checks in the amount of all the funds left to them in the bank,” according to the DA’s office.
Nitschke, who was previously practicing law in Irvine, stole more than $675,000 from the victims by depositing the money in his client trust and then almost immediately transferring the money his personal and business bank accounts.
To top matters off, Nitschke also stole an additional $46,000 from the victims by failing to return the funds to them from a real estate transaction, the release states. He then spent the money or hid it by moving it into other accounts.
The family got suspicious and ultimately called the Irvine Police Department and Nitschke was arrested in September 2012. The State Bar stripped him of his eligibility to practice law later that month.
The media coverage prompted more victims to come forward. Today’s conviction includes those crimes as well. They are:
- Nitschke knew a married couple from church and approached them to invest in a civil case. The defendant asked for $50,000 and promised full repayment with 20 percent interest. Nitschke failed to repay any of the money until the couple hired an attorney, at which time he made several payments before bouncing a check for over $3,400. He made no further payments.
- Nitschke was hired to represent another member of his church in a loan modification action regarding the victim’s residence. The victim gave Nitschke $1,000, but Nitschke did no work on the matter and failed to return the money to the victim.
- Nitschke was hired to represent a client, who was suing her homeowners association over mold damage in her condominium unit. Nitschke negotiated a settlement of $22,500, of which it was agreed that he would keep $7,500 and pay the balance of $15,000 to the client. After giving a check of $3,620 to the victim’s contractor, the defendant failed to return the balance of the victim’s money.
- Nitschke was hired by a client to represent him in a foreclosure action. The victim gave Nitschke $7,000 to begin the representation, but the defendant failed to do any work on the matter and did not return the victim’s money.