TOPEKA – A Topeka lawyer has been charged in federal court here with stealing more than $460,000 from clients’ trust funds, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today.
52-year-old Robert M. Telthorst, of Topeka is charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. A criminal information filed in U.S. District Court in Topeka alleges that from November 2005 to August 2011 Telthorst 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.
If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on the wire fraud charge; and a maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $500,000 on the money laundering charge.