Crime & Courts

Disbarred Lincoln County lawyer indicted on embezzlement charges

Peter Capece
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Disbarred Lincoln County lawyer Peter Capece, accused of taking $800,000 from a late client’s estate, has been indicted on 11 counts of embezzlement. The client’s widow also faces charges in the case.

The case involves funds from the estate of Fritz Detmers of Denver, N.C., said Chris Cardwell, special agent in charge of the State Bureau of Investigation’s financial crimes unit. Detmers died at age 78 in 2009.

The grand jury on Monday also indicted Detmers’ wife, Charlinette Detmers, 39, on one count of obtaining property by false pretense in the case, Cardwell said. A warrant has been issued for her arrest, and investigators know where she is, Cardwell said.

Capece turned himself in at the sheriff’s office and is free on $200,000 bail, sheriff’s office spokesman Larry Seagle said. He must appear in court Nov. 30.

Capece told the Observer on Tuesday that he couldn’t comment about the indictments and referred questions to his lawyer, Eben Rawls III of Charlotte. Rawls is out of the office until Thursday and couldn’t be reached.

Capece faces up to 30 years and five months in prison if convicted on five of the embezzlement counts.

He could spend at least another two years and six months in prison if convicted on six other embezzlement counts.

Charlinette Detmers could serve up to six years and one month in prison.

Capece surrendered his law license in May after admitting in court documents to misappropriating nearly $1.6 million entrusted to him as the executor of Fritz Detmers’ estate. At this point, the criminal case only involves half of that money.

Capece worked in the Denver office of the Lincolnton-based Jonas law firm, whose high-profile lawyers include 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 the 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 to whom he is now 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 face actions in civil court, including a lawsuit filed 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.

Staff Researcher Maria David contributed.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak