EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (CN) – A lawyer apparently committed suicide this week rather than face sentencing for stealing money from an elderly client.
Dennis Nalick sent a fax to his attorney’s office at 8 a.m. Thursday, saying he would not be at the 9 a.m. hearing, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Nalick’s lawyer Chris Threlkeld told reporters he had not seen the note and did not know if it gave a reason for the no-show.
One of Nalick’s attorneys asked authorities to check on his well-being and his body was found in his SUV, which was parked in his garage with the motor running.
An official cause of death has not been released.
Nalick pleaded guilty in January to one felony count of mail fraud. He admitted that he deposited a client’s check of $137,826 into his own account and spent it.
The victim was Corinne Hawkins, who is in her 80s. Hawkins knew Nalick from church and hired him to handle the estate of her late mother.
Nalick’s scheme was exposed when Hawkins hired another lawyer in 2009 after she become frustrated with Nalick, who produced fake letters to persuade Hawkins that the estate had not yet been settled.
Nalick faced 41 to 51 months in prison and a fine of $7,500 to $75,000, according to federal sentencing guidelines. Threlkeld said the case would be dismissed due to Nalick’s death.
Nalick had a history of disciplinary issues in Missouri and Illinois and was suspended from practicing law a year ago.