Orange County District Attorney Press Release
For Immediate Release, Case # 12HF2546: June 20, 2014
SANTA ANA – An attorney was sentenced today to 12 years in state prison for stealing over $780,000 from nine victims, including over $720,000 from his client trust account from two elderly sisters after offering to assist them with their finances. Peter David Nitschke, 47, Newport Beach, pleaded guilty to a court offer Feb. 3, 2014, 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.
In March 2010, the 95-year-old mother of 69-year-old Virginia C. and mother-in-law of 65-year-old Diane C. died, leaving the women a property in Northern California and over $675,000 in bank accounts.
Nitschke, a then-Irvine-based attorney, was friends with the victims’ family and was president of their church congregation, the Lutheran Church of the Cross in Laguna Woods. The defendant offered to help Diane C. 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/mother-in-law.
He stole over $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. The defendant also stole an additional $46,000 from the victims by failing to return the funds to them from a real estate transaction. Nitschke then spent the money or hid it by moving it into other accounts.
In early 2012, the victims’ family inquired with the defendant about the money to assist Diane C. and Virginia C. with medical and nursing home expenses. Despite the account having been closed with a zero balance, Nitschke created 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 victims called the Irvine Police Department in May 2012. Nitschke was arrested in September 2012 and charged by the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) for the crimes against Diane C. and Virginia C. The OCDA publicized the case and, as a result of the media coverage, additional victims came forward.
Nitschke was subsequently charged with and convicted today of the following crimes:
▪ 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.
At the sentencing today, two of the victims gave emotional impact statements and expressed the financial, physical, physiological and medical damage that has resulted from the defendant’s crime.
Deputy District Attorney Sean O’Brien of the White Collar Crime Team prosecuted the case.
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff