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Deerfield man admits stealing $550K while leading organization that helps disabled children

Stuart Nitzkin spent the money on luxury travel, health club dues and Chicago Bulls tickets. He even took cash from fundraising events.

Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St.
Stuart Nitzkin, 45, of Deerfield, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a hearing held by video conference before U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis.
Sun-Times Media

The onetime executive director of an Illinois nonprofit that works to help disabled children admitted Wednesday he stole at least $550,000 from the organization, spending it instead on personal expenses like travel, golf, health club dues and Chicago Bulls tickets.

Stuart Nitzkin, 45, of Deerfield, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a hearing held by video conference before U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis. His sentencing is set for Aug. 3. Prosecutors contend he stole $831,400.

Though Nitzkin’s plea agreement identifies the victim organization only as “Organization A,” records show he served as executive director of American Friends of the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled.

Representatives of the organization did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Nitzkin told Ellis he now runs a staffing company. When asked to explain his crime in his own words, Nitzkin told the judge, “I misused organizational funds for my own personal use, your honor.”

Nitzkin’s plea agreement says he led the victim organization from April 2011 until September 2016, collecting an annual salary of $150,000. During that time, according to the plea agreement, he submitted bogus invoices, receipts and other reimbursement requests for expenses he knew were for his and others’ personal benefit.

Those expenses included luxury vacations for Nitzkin and his family to Las Vegas, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Florida and elsewhere, as well as personal golfing expenses, “thousands of dollars for tickets for NBA games featuring the Chicago Bulls” and other sporting events, personal medical expenses, property taxes, health club dues, camp expenses for his children, household goods, meals and car repairs.

Nitzkin also secured reimbursement for credit card expenses for coffee shops, fast food restaurants, household goods stores, and his kids’ day camp expenses, according to the plea agreement. It said he used ATMs, online transfers and other methods to access the organization’s money to pay credit card bills that included property tax charges, more camp fees and membership in a house of worship.

Nitzkin admitted in his plea agreement that he submitted bogus invoices and receipts for business expenses incurred not by the non-profit, but by a business he owned. And it said he caused the organization to pay $40,000 for food-catering services to a vendor who was a personal friend — knowing the organization was overpaying.

Finally, Nitzkin admitted taking cash from fundraising events for the organization, using it on personal expenses having nothing to do with its mission.