Suburban Attorney Sentenced to 70 Months for Stealing $2.34 Million in Clients’ Funds
CHICAGO—A suburban real estate attorney and radio talk show host was sentenced today to 70 months’ imprisonment for stealing approximately $2.34 million from her clients. The defendant, KATHLEEN NIEW, 59, of Burr Ridge, was also ordered to pay restitution of $2.34 million to the victims of her fraud and forfeit assets related to the crime. “The sentence must promote respect for the law . . . something has to be done when a case like this comes up.” U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber said in imposing the sentence. Judge Leinenweber also ordered three years of supervised release, and Niew is to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on April 14, 2015.
Niew operated Niew Legal Partners, LLC, in Oak Brook. She was charged with 10 counts of wire fraud by a federal grand jury in August 2013 and pled in June 2014 to all counts of the indictment. She was disbarred in 2013.
According to court records, the victims, 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. Niew used the funds for her own benefit, contrary to the false representations she made to the couple. Without the victims’ knowledge, Niew used their funds to finance the purchases of various gold mining operations and not to purchase any commercial property for the victims as originally intended. Further, as part of the fraud scheme, Niew arranged to receive a 20 percent finder’s fee for herself from mining operation investments in exchange for providing approximately $1.5 million in funds that belonged to her clients.
At the sentencing hearing today, Judge Leinenweber also found Niew responsible for defrauding another client out of $500,000. Niew falsely told that victim that she needed to borrow $500,000 to help buy assets in her upcoming divorce proceeding. Niew, however, was not divorcing her husband, and she sent the victim’s funds to one of the same investment operations where she had sent previous victims’ money.
“Niew blatantly stole $2.8 million of her clients’ money, and then lied to cover up the scam. When confronted and caught, Niew undertook acts that can only be described as shocking for an attorney licensed by the bar—creating false cover-up documents, lying to her clients, and lying under oath (once again) to the ARDC,” argued Assistant United States Attorney Sunil Harjani in the government’s sentencing memorandum.
The sentence was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sunil Harjani and Andrew Boutros.