Crime

Pismo Beach lawyer pleads no contest to embezzling $275,000 from client

William Peter Terhune, 57, of Pismo Beach was arrested Thursday, July 7, 2011, on suspicion of embezzlement and taking property exceeding $200,000. Original story »
William Peter Terhune, 57, of Pismo Beach was arrested Thursday, July 7, 2011, on suspicion of embezzlement and taking property exceeding $200,000. Original story »

A Pismo Beach lawyer accused of taking money from a client pleaded no contest Thursday to felony grand theft by embezzlement.

William Peter Terhune, 57, was arrested in July 2011 on suspicion of transferring about $275,000 to his business account from the estate of Junko S. Hensling, which he had been administrating, according to a report filed by the San Luis Obispo Police Department.

Hensling was a native of Japan and lived in Los Osos at the time of her death in December 2007, according to the police report. She willed her estate to a sole beneficiary, Momoko Sasaki of Japan.

Three members of Terhune's staff confronted him in October 2009 about missing funds from the bank account belonging to the Hensling estate, the police report stated.

Terhune responded that "a business loan he had applied for had not been funded and he needed the money," adding that he'd return the funds to the account, the report stated.

But the staff members told police the money wasn't returned and that Sasaki had no prior knowledge of the withdrawals from the account. The report stated Terhune "admitted he did not have $275,000 in cash to repay the notes."

Following Terhune’s arrest, the State Bar of California closed down his law practice. He is ineligible to practice law now, and further disciplinary action is pending before the California State Bar.

His sentencing is scheduled for May 10 before Judge Barry LaBarbera.

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