ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Timothy Nelke called in sick on April 1 last year, claimed he had checked himself into a detox facility, and said “I have made some very extreme mistakes” in a text to his employer.
It was no April Fools joke.
Nelke, an office manager at the Reisch Law Firm in Westminster, told his boss he had stolen $100,000 from the business.
In reality, he had taken more than $300,000.
A new car.
Also toward paying off his child support and putting his two kids through college.
Nelke was sentenced last month to eight years in prison.
“Fine with me. Should’ve been more,” said Scott Reisch, a criminal defense attorney who had hired Nelke, a family friend, three years earlier.
“I trusted him.”
Reisch said he first received hints of Nelke’s malfeasance while working a three-week homicide trial out of state. Nelke, the only other person in the office with access to bank accounts, called him and asked Reisch for a transfer of money to cover payroll. Reisch covered it with money from his personal savings.
When Reisch returned to Colorado, Nelke called in sick. In fact, he never returned to the office.
“I couldn’t sleep for three weeks. I just felt so stupid,” Reisch said. “In 25 years of practice, I never thought somebody would steal from me.”
Reisch has represented clients across the spectrum of offenses. But never, he said, had he sat in a courtroom as the victim of a crime.
“I’ve represented people over the years who’ve stolen from a business,” Reisch said, “and I’ve seen the destruction. It’s not like somebody’s been beaten or assaulted, but you see the damage.”
Reisch told CBS4 he had heard people who were swindled express embarrassment at the fact, enough to consider not reporting the crime at all.
He felt that, too.
But the feeling did not last.
He hired another accountant to audit the records, collected the necessary documentation to proceed with an investigation, and gave it Adams County investigators.
They found Nelke had forged signatures on 214 checks and paid himself through other illegitimate bonuses and reimbursements.
“I’m usually a pretty positive guy,” Reisch added. “(But) my advice out there is ‘trust no one.’ I check my accounts about four times a day.”
Reisch said he paid out another $300,000 in legal fees and costs, including company debts that had accrued during Nelke’s employment.
Per the Adams County District Attorney’s Office, Nelke was remorseful at his sentencing. In addition to eight years in prison, he was ordered to pay back the $300,000 taken from the law firm. But Reisch plans to file a civil suit in attempt to recover more — even if the prospects of getting anything at all are slim.
“I’ll never see a penny of it,” he said. “It was a learning experience. I just wish it wasn’t so expensive.”