A contempt of court hearing for disbarred Lincoln County lawyer Peter Capece was postponed Thursday after Capece and his wife filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy a day earlier.
Capece faces the contempt hearing, at which he could be jailed, for failing to turn over records regarding his mishandling of about $1.6 million from trust accounts, court officials said.
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A bankruptcy filing temporarily stops certain collection and other actions against the filer.
Elizabeth Croom, Lincoln County assistant clerk of Superior Court, said she rescheduled Capece’s hearing for Aug. 28. She said she wants to determine whether the bankruptcy filing halts any of the issues involved in the contempt hearing, which she will conduct.
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 the estate of Fritz Detmers of Denver, N.C. Detmers died at age 78 in 2009.
Capece worked in the Denver, N.C., office of the Lincolnton-based Jonas law firm, whose high-profile lawyers include former N.C. House Minority leader Jonathan 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 show he spent about $9,200 on an engagement ring at Diamonds Direct for Kellee Ledan, a former secretary at the law firm and to whom he is now married.
Capece also gave $15,520 to Ledan’s now-defunct Tymiss Enterprises LLC, a boutique shop in Denver, N.C.
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 has referred questions to his attorney, Rick Kane of the Charlotte law firm Poyner Spruill, who said Capece “has cooperated to the best of his abilities and will continue to do so.”
Capece admitted to misappropriating the money between December 2009 and February 2015, according to the affidavit.
In a consent order of disbarment filed in Wake County Superior Court, Judge Donald Stephens ruled that Capece misappropriated about $706,000 as legal guardian of an estate and about $817,000 as trustee of a related living trust.
Capece misappropriated another $62,200 from a general trust account he maintained at BB&T Bank, the judge found.
Capece is barred from asking to have his law license reinstated for at least five years, the judge ordered.
Source: The Charlotte Observer