CHARLESTON -– A Charleston attorney who lost his license over forging a judge's signature on a bogus court document has now been indicted for forging multiple checks from a friend's account.

The Kanawha County grand jury on April 1 returned an 89-count indictment against John E. Lutz Jr. The indictment charged Lutz with a scheme to defraud Charles R. Gardner Jr. of Charleston when Lutz between July 21, 2009, and Sept. 10, 2010, stole at least 176 checks from his checking account, and later forged and uttered 88 of them.

Records show Lutz was arrested on the charges following a complaint Gardner filed with Charleston Police who discovered in January irregularities with 222 of his checks. An investigation turned up surveillance video from City National Bank where Gardner had his account showing Lutz using Gardner's driver's license to cash checks made payable to himself.

Gardner and his nephew, David, were able to identify Lutz from the surveillance video. They maintain Lutz had easy access to Gardner's account since Lutz visited him daily.

Shortly after Lutz was arrested on the forgery charges in Gardner's case, he was charged with violating the terms of his probation in a previous forgery-related conviction.

In March 2008, Lutz was charged with one count of forgery and uttering after he signed former Kanawha Circuit Judge Irene C. Berger's signature to a phony settlement in a pending breach of contract lawsuit his client, Connie Bergstedt, had with the real estate agents who sold she and her husband their home in 2003. Eventually, Lutz agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully exercising the function of a public official, and sentenced in Oct. 2009 to 18 months probation.

The terms of his probation included he refrain from using any drugs, expect with a valid prescription, and alcohol.

However, the Kanawha County Adult Probation Department reported that on Sept. 20 and Dec.8, 2010, Lutz failed a drug test. Both times he tested positive for cocaine.

About a year before his conviction, Lutz voluntarily surrendered his law license.

At his arraignment held April 13, Lutz entered a plea of not guilty. Eight days later, records show Judge Louis H. "Duke" Bloom sentenced Lutz to a year in jail for violating the terms of his probation.

Lutz is scheduled to return to Bloom's courtroom on Monday, May 23 to stand trial on the scheme to defraud, and forgery charges.

Kanawha Circuit Court, case number 11-F-306

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