Medford developer and mortgage broker James Charles Nistler, who bilked investors of more than $1 million, is appealing his racketeering conviction and his quarter-million-dollar restitution judgment with the help of a public defender.

Medford developer and mortgage broker James Charles Nistler, who bilked investors of more than $1 million, is appealing his racketeering conviction and his quarter-million-dollar restitution judgment with the help of a public defender.

Nistler, 80, was convicted in November 2010 of one count of racketeering, eight counts of securities fraud and eight counts of first-degree aggravated theft. He remains free on bond as he appeals his 19-month prison sentence.

At a restitution hearing in June, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Gerking heard arguments from prosecutor Rachel Bridges and Nistler's attorney, Michael Kellington. Bridges argued that Nistler was convicted on all counts by a jury of his peers. Nistler took in $1.2 million from investors to build houses, but actually spent less than $400,000 on the project, Bridges said.

Kellington maintained his client's complex case is rife with issues that will be brought up before the Oregon Court of Appeals. Kellington said the state's public defenders office had agreed to take the case, and Nistler will have free representation as attorneys attempt to persuade the higher court to reverse his criminal conviction and void the monetary award.

Nistler's appeal was filed late last week, court records show.

Gerking ruled in July that Nistler must pay $257,611 to bilked victims of his ill-fated real estate development scheme. The payment amounts range from $28,000 to $78,000, court documents show.

Nistler was a high-ranking official with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the late 1980s and claims to have built more than 800 homes in Jackson County.

Judge Ray White presided over the original trial. Judge Lorenzo Mejia handed down the final 19-month prison sentence after White's retirement.

Nistler was to report to jail Jan. 24. But Mejia ruled Nistler could remain free on bond pending his appeal. However, if the Oregon Court of Appeals upholds Nistler's conviction, he must begin serving his sentence, even if he plans to continue his appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, Mejia ruled.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.