Disbarred attorney accused of violating probation, forging checks

By Lawrence Smith | Mar 4, 2011

CHARLESTON – A disbarred Charleston attorney faces jail time for not only violating the terms of his probation on a forgery-related conviction, but also new allegations of forgery.

The Kanawha County Adult Probation Office filed a motion with Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles E. King Jr. that he revoke the probation of John E. Lutz Jr. In her motion filed Jan. 31, Judy A. Jones, the Office's chief probation officer, alleged Lutz on Sept. 20 and Dec. 8 tested positive for cocaine.

In March 2008, Lutz was charged with one count of forgery and uttering when he signed former Kanawha Circuit Judge Irene C. Berger's signature to a bogus settlement in a former client's civil case. However, Lutz later pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully exercising the function of a public official, and was sentenced by King in October 2009, to 18 months probation.

Among the terms of Lutz's probation was that he was to refrain from using any drugs without a prescription, and alcohol. About a year prior to his sentencing, Lutz voluntarily surrendered his law license.

Five days before the Probation Office filed its motion, Lutz was arrested by the Charleston Police and charged with five counts of forgery and uttering. The new charges, records show, stem from Lutz writing checks from a friend's account without his permission.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court, Lutz was observed via surveillance cameras on at least five separate occasions from Nov. 23, 2010, to Jan. 18 cashing checks totaling $1,020 at either the West Side or Dunbar branches of City National Bank. All the checks were written from the account of Charles Gardner, who reported to CPD on Jan. 20 someone forged 222 checks from his account.

In the affidavit attached to the complaint, CPD Detective E. Tipton says he contacted both Gardner and his nephew, David, if they knew Lutz. Both said Lutz would have easy access to the checks since he visited Charles, who is terminally ill, daily to bring him food.

In addition to the checks, Lutz was accused of stealing Gardner's driver's license. In his affidavit, Tipton alleged Lutz used it to cash the checks.

Lutz, 67, currently is incarcerated at the South Central Regional Jail in lieu of $25,000 bond. The new forgery charges have been bound over the grand jury after Lutz waived his preliminary hearing earlier last month.

Kanawha Circuit Court case numbers 09-M-55 and 11-B-143

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