Suspect ordered to stand trial for felony forgery charge

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Kevin Hoffman
Thursday, December 1, 2011
— Jacqueline Sharlein recognizes the forged signatures that stripped her ownership of her East Troy home, allowing someone to sell it and flee to Eastern Europe.

The signatures were forged by her former fiancÚ, she said.

Gerald Nickels was ordered Wednesday to stand trial after Walworth County Judge John Race ruled Nickels probably committed a felony.

Sharlein was the only witness to take the stand during the preliminary hearing, where Nickels silently watched with his attorneys. Sharlein testified she was familiar with Nickels' handwriting, and signatures on a quit claim deed and escrow check matched those of her former fiancÚ.

Sharlein said her first name was even misspelled on one of the signatures.

Nickels is charged with forgery and misappropriating identity, both felonies carrying a maximum prison sentence of up to six years.

Sharlein was engaged to Nickels in 1998, and the relationship lasted nearly three years.

During that time, she sold her home in Milwaukee and purchase property in East Troy. It was where they built their home.

After the engagement ended, Sharlein moved away while retaining part ownership of the home. It was unclear whether Nickels remained there alone, but in 2008 Sharlein discovered someone had forged her signature on a document granting Nickels full ownership.

Sharlein testified that the home was then sold. She initially contributed $40,000 to purchase the property in East Troy, and the house was sold for a $35,000 profit, according to the criminal complaint.

She contacted the mortgage company, which provided her a copy of the escrow check. It had been sent to an address in Ukraine.

Nickels' attorney, Jeffrey Hahn, argued Race should dismiss the charges because the court has no jurisdiction. He said nothing suggests the check was sent, signed or cashed in Walworth County.

Hahn also argued there was no evidence that Nickels was the one who committed the crimes.

The property deed was recorded in the county Nov. 6, 2006, according to records. The woman who signed the deed transfer provided a Wisconsin driver's license as identification, according to the complaint.

Nickels is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 7.

Last updated: 7:12 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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