An attorney was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of embezzling more than $720,000 from two elderly friends at his church after the death of their mother, the Orange County district attorney's office reported.
Peter David Nitschke, 45, of Newport Beach was taken into custody by detectives from the Irvine Police Department and is being held on $725,000 bail. Nitschke was 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. He is expected to be arraigned Wednesday. If convicted, he faces a maximum 12 years in state prison.
According to the D.A., in March 2010, the 95-year-old mother of Diane C., 65, and Virginia C., 69, passed away and left them a home in Northern California and more than $675,000 in the bank. Nitschke, who was an Irvine-based attorney at the time, was friends with the victims' family and knew them through Lutheran Church of the Cross in Laguna Woods, where he was president of the congregation.
Nitschke is accused of offering to help the sisters settle their finances and advising them to give him cashier's checks in the amount of all the funds left to them in the bank accounts by their mother.
Prosecutors say Nitschke stole more than $675,000 from the elderly sisters 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. He is also accused of stealing an additional $46,000 from the sisters by failing to return funds from a real estate transaction.
Earlier this year, the sisters' family asked Nitschke about the money to help pay for medical and nursing home expenses for Diane and Virginia. 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 the funds were in his client trust account.
The victims called police in May 2012.