Illinois man who stole $800K from disabled youth group pleads guilty

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CHICAGO (AP) — The former executive director of a suburban Chicago nonprofit devoted to helping disabled children has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $800,000 from the group and using the money for personal expenses.

Stuart Nitzkin, 45, of Deerfield, was charged with one count of wire fraud last Thursday. On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty.

The charges against Nitzkin do not name the organization he worked for, saying only that he was executive director of a nonprofit group “committed to empowering physically disabled children to participate in physical and psychological rehabilitation through sports.”

However, online records show the nonprofit was the American Friends of the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled. That group is the U.S. chapter of a charity founded in 1960 that specializes in the physical and psychological rehabilitation of Israeli children and youth.

Nitzkin’s attorney, Adam Sheppard, said Friday the charity was “a cause to which (Nitzkin) was deeply devoted” and that he’s since worked to repay what he allegedly took from the group.

The charges allege that from April 2011 to September 2016, Nitzkin misappropriated at least $831,000 in funds meant for the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled, including directly taking cash from donors and using it to pay personal expenses.

Nitzkin was reportedly paid $150,000 a year to raise money for the charity. He could face up to three and a half years in prison.

Nitzkin’s sentencing is set for Aug. 3.

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