Attorney Arrested for Allegedly Stealing Escrow Funds

Allison Tussey —  August 30, 2013 — Leave a comment

Kathleen Niew, 57, Burr Ridge, Illinois, an attorney who operated Niew Legal Partners LLC and whose law license was suspended in May 2013, was arrested on federal fraud charges for allegedly misappropriating approximately $2.34 million from a husband and wife who were her clients.

The defendant was charged with 10 counts of wire fraud in a federal grand jury indictment that was returned on August 27, 2013, and unsealed following her arrest. FBI agents took Niew into custody without incident at her office in Oak Brook.

She was scheduled to be arraigned at 3 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Young B. Kim in U.S. District Court.

According to the indictment, Victims A and B, a husband and wife who were Niew’s clients, transferred approximately $2.34 million into Niew’s attorney escrow account to be used for closings on commercial real estate transactions. Between January 2010 and December 2012, Niew allegedly used the funds for her own benefit, contrary to the false representations she made to the couple and others.

Without the couple’s knowledge, Niew used their funds to finance the purchases of various mining operations and not to purchase any commercial property for the victims, the charges allege. As part of the fraud scheme, Niew arranged to receive a 20 percent finder’s fee for herself from a mining operation in exchange for providing it approximately $1.5 million in funds that belonged to her clients. She falsely told the couple that their funds were available in her escrow account and were to be used for closings when they were not. She further concealed her fraudulent conversion of funds by telling her clients that the bank had erroneously sent the funds intended for closings to the wrong bank accounts, even though she had not directed any such wire transfer of the clients’ funds to the title companies to purchase real estate, the indictment alleges.

The arrest and charges were announced by Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Shields, Jr., Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sunil Harjani.

Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or an alternative fine totaling twice the gross gain or twice the loss, whichever is greater, and restitution is mandatory. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

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