Four San Francisco men originally charged in Southern California with defrauding an elderly Palm Springs homeowner who went missing in December have now been charged with the man’s murder.Riverside County prosecutors said the four men, along with a fifth man from Daly City, hatched a scheme in 2008 to murder 74-year-old retiree Clifford Lambert and steal from his estate.Lambert is alleged to have been killed during a burglary of his $1.3 million home on Dec. 6.Prosecutors filed first-degree murder charges Thursday against David Replogle, a 60-year-old San Francisco civil attorney; Kaushal Niroula, a 27-year-old Nepalese man in the U.S. on a student visa; Russell HerbertManning, a 67-year-old art dealer; Daniel Carlos Garcia, 26, of San Francisco; and Miguel Bustamante, 26, of Daly City.All except Manning are in custody on a no-bail status. An arrest warrant is still outstanding for Manning.Attached to the murder charges are special circumstances allegations that the murder was committed during a burglary, which makes the five men eligible for the death penalty.A decision on whether to pursue a capital case has not yet been made, according to the district attorney’s office.District attorney’s office spokesman Michael Jeandron said today he could not release information about whether Lambert’s body had been found, or how Lambert’s alleged murder is believed to have been committed, citing an ongoing investigation. The Riverside County coroner’s office, which would handle any homicide victims found in the area, said today it had not received anyone by that name.According to prosecutors, following Lambert’s murder, Replogle posed as Lambert and then signed over power of attorney to Manning.The men then allegedly tried to sell Lambert’s home for $298,000, but the sale was halted after a realtor who had heard of Lambert’s disappearance became suspicious about the discrepancy and notified Palm Springs police. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were also allegedly taken from Lambert’s bank accounts.A felony complaint filed by Riverside County prosecutors in late February against Replogle, Niroula, Manning and Garcia included charges of forgery, impersonation and grand theft.Niroula is well known to authorities in the Bay Area, having active felony cases in both San Francisco and Marin County for allegedly stealing $300,000 worth of jewelry from the home of a Novato man he befriended, and for allegedly scamming a wealthy art collector out of $400,000 in San Francisco. Niroula earlier this year posted $250,000 bail, reportedly paid by Replogle, in connection with the San Francisco grand theft and conspiracy case, which involved the attempted sale of a well-known painting that was never delivered.Manning is a co-defendant in that case Palm Springs police arrested Niroula on March 2 when he made an appearance in San Francisco Superior Court. “These con men have skillfully manipulated their way through millions of illegally obtained dollars and managed to avoid consequences until now,” Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco said in a prepared statement Friday.Pacheco said Lambert “isn’t the first victim of their ongoing scams to enrich themselves, but we plan on making sure he is the last.”
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