Former Topeka Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Stealing from Clients’ Trust Funds
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 14, 2012|
TOPEKA, KS—A former Topeka lawyer has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $460,000 from clients’ trust funds, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today.
Robert M. Telthorst, 52, Topeka, Kansas, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. In his plea, he admitted that from November 2005 to August 2011 he executed what was in essence a Ponzi scheme in which he took clients’ money and used it both to benefit himself and to cover up the fact he was taking money from other clients’ trust accounts.
The list of clients he allegedly defrauded includes the following:
- The daughters of a man identified in court documents as Otto K.: After the man’s death, Telthorst was appointed to administer $463,344 for the man’s two daughters. The man wanted the first daughter, identified as Sheri T., to receive a lump sum. Money for the second daughter, identified as Marlene O., was to be invested, with monthly payments to be made to her. Before providing the lump sum to Sheri T., Telthorst took approximately $22,000 for his own benefit. In the trust for Marlene O., the balance dropped from more than $208,500 to less than $150 after Telthorst removed most of the funds for his own benefit.
- The granddaughters of a client, identified as Mia, Olivia, and Lillian: Telthorst set up three educational gift trusts of $10,000 each. He depleted all three trusts, leaving them each with balances of less than $350.
- Arnold and Bertha J., who established a charitable trust of $80,000 for the KU School of Business: The balance in the account dropped to less than $1,750 after Telthorst diverted funds to his own benefit.
Sentencing is set for February 19. Both parties have agreed to recommend a sentence of five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. They also are recommending he be ordered to pay restitution of $460,542. Grissom commended the FBI, the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway for their work on the case.