A disbarred Lincoln County lawyer began serving a 16-year sentence this month for embezzling from a late client’s estate.
Peter Capece surrendered his law license in 2015 after admitting in court documents to misappropriating nearly $1.6 million entrusted to him as executor of the estate of Fritz Detmers of Denver, N.C., who died at age 78 in 2009. The subsequent criminal case involved half of that money.
In late 2015, a Lincoln County grand jury indicted Capece on 11 counts of embezzlement.
Last month, the 41-year-old Capece pleaded guilty in Lincoln County Criminal Superior Court to five felony counts of embezzling $100,000 or more.
Detmers’ wife, Charlinette Detmers, also 41, awaits trial on charges of felony embezzlement and felony obtaining property under false pretenses.
On July 1, Capece was taken to the medium-security Craven Correctional Institution in Vanceboro in eastern North Carolina.
Craven Correctional is one of the state’s largest prison processing centers. New arrivals from county jails typically spend about a month there for testing, evaluation and interviews to determine which prison they’ll be assigned.
Given credit for a year in the Lincoln County jail as he awaited the outcome of his case, Capece has a projected release date from the state prison system of Jan.1, 2031, state prison records show.
Capece worked in the Denver office of the Lincolnton-based Jonas law firm, whose high-profile lawyers have included former N.C. House Minority Leader Johnathan Rhyne. Rhyne served in the role when Republicans were in the minority.
The law firm fired Capece. In a statement after Capece was disbarred, the firm said it was “dismayed that a former employee, a person we invited into our firm and treated as one of our own, would betray the trust of a client. Such an egregious breach of ethics and violation of the law is a betrayal of every standard we have worked hard to uphold over the decades.”
According to an affidavit, Capece admitted using the money for personal benefit.
Court records in a related civil case show he spent about $9,200 on an engagement ring at Diamonds Direct for Kellee Ledan, a former secretary at the law firm whom he married. Capece also gave $15,520 to Ledan’s now-defunct Tymiss Enterprises LLC, a boutique shop in Denver, records show.
He spent $5,000 for a family vacation at Sea Pines Resort, a luxury beach resort in Hilton Head, S.C., and thousands of dollars more on his personal phone and other bills, records show.
Capece and Charlinette Detmers also were sued by the Detmerses’ 19-year-old son and primary heir to the estate.
Fritz Detmers left hundreds of thousands of dollars in trust accounts for his son to access once he turned 18, court records show. The son, Tols Detmers, says in his lawsuit that his mother was entitled to $60,000 from the estate. But Capece, as executor of the estate, gave Charlinette Detmers $311,000 instead, according to the lawsuit.
Capece gave her $251,000 more than she was entitled to, the lawsuit states, because he believed she could hire a lawyer who would uncover Capece’s misdeeds involving the estate, according to a legal report by the estate’s current administrator, Charlotte attorney Michael Allen.