CHICAGO (STMW) — A west suburban attorney whose law license had already been suspended now faces federal charges of stealing more than $2 million from a couple who were her clients, according to federal prosecutors.
Kathleen Niew, 57, of Burr Ridge, who operated Niew Legal Partners in Oak Brook, was arrested Thursday at her office and charged with 10 counts of wire fraud, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The husband and wife clients transferred $2.34 million into Niew’s attorney escrow account to be used for closings on commercial real estate transactions, according to prosecutors.
But between January 2010 and December 2012, Niew used the funds for her own benefit and purchased various mining operations instead of purchasing commercial property for the couple, prosecutors allege.
She arranged to receive a 20 percent finder’s fee for herself from the mining operation in exchange for giving the company $1.5 million of her clients’ funds, the statement said.
Niew told her clients that the bank had sent the funds to the wrong accounts, even though she had not directed any wire transfers to purchase real estate, prosecutors allege.
According to her website, Niew has written two books, “The Zero Tolerance Factor” and “Money-Keeping for Modern Times,” and was awarded the Ronald Reagan Gold Medal in 2006 by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
She is scheduled for arraignment Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Chicago, and if convicted, could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In March, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission called for Niew’s immediate suspension, following the filing of a complaint filed in December 2012.
The complaint was over the same allegations contained in the federal indictment unsealed this week. It accused Niew of conversion of client funds and failure to promptly deliver funds in connection with three real estate transactions.
Niew’s license was suspended by the Illinois Supreme Court in May, according to prosecutors.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)