A disbarred Riverside County attorney who stole money from clients and a nonprofit organization was on felony probation Monday for schemes uncovered while he was serving as trustee of an estate.
Edward John Nowakoski, 69, of Temecula pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of grand theft under a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office. In exchange for his admissions, prosecutors dropped four related counts.
Superior Court Judge William Lebov at the Riverside Hall of Justice imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense — three years felony probation. The judge also ordered him to pay victim restitution in the amount of $562,854.
Nowakoski was disbarred by the California Bar Association on Sept. 22, 2021, losing all privileges to practice law in the state.
According to the D.A.’s office, the defendant specialized in trusts and estates, and after one of his clients died in 2016, he “transferred a significant portion of the estate funds to his own accounts, instead of disbursing it to the client’s family as directed in the trust.”
Over the ensuing two years, he used the money to cover personal expenses and helped pay for a friend’s education, prosecutors said.
At the same time, Nowakoski served as treasurer of the Southwest Riverside County Bar Association. During the sheriff’s investigation into the probate fraud, it was learned that the defendant had been siphoning membership funds out of the SWRCBA and using them for his own purposes, according to the prosecution.
Nowakoski was removed from his role as treasurer after he was disbarred and the criminal investigation was underway.
The defendant had no prior documented felony or misdemeanor convictions.
He had been practicing law since 1987.