Saturday, June 11, 2016

Mishandling/Misappropriation Of Clients' Funds &/Or Property Dominate Recent Lawyer Sanctions By Illinois Supreme Court

A recent news release from the Illinois State Bar Association reports that the the Supreme Court of Illinois announced the filing of lawyer disciplinary orders on May 18, 2016, imposing sanctions on 25 lawyers, disbarring nine, suspending 16, because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law.

Of those sanctioned, the following fourteen attorneys were belted for conduct relating, at least in part, to the mishandling or misappropriation of their clients' money and/or property, and, in one case, the purchase of a home in a short sale belonging to his then-wife, and failing to disclose that fact to the bank for which he copped a gulity plea in a federal court.
  • DISBARRED

    Maurice W. Birt, III, Northbrook
    Mr. Birt, who was licensed in 1999, was disbarred. He intentionally misappropriated $80,000 belonging to an elderly woman who entrusted her funds to him. He also misled his law partner about his handling of the woman’s funds by telling his partner that he had invested the funds for the woman.

    Thomas Mitchel Henry, Peoria
    Mr. Henry, who was licensed in 1978, was disbarred on consent. He misappropriated approximately $144,000 from an estate while serving as both attorney and executor of the estate.

    John William Pleta, Mokena
    Mr. Pleta, who was licensed in 1987, was disbarred on consent. He misappropriated more than $1.2 million of client funds. He then lied to his client by telling the client that the funds remained in his trust account when, in fact, he had already spent all but about $10,000 of the funds for his own business or personal purposes. He was suspended on an interim basis on January 19, 2016.

    SUSPENDED

    Edward Dorsey, Carbondale
    Mr. Dorsey, who was licensed in 1993, was suspended for 18 months. He converted funds owed to client medical providers and also endorsed a settlement check with the signature of a medical provider without that provider’s permission. The suspension is effective on June 8, 2016.

    George Ernest Faber, West Dundee
    Mr. Faber, who was licensed in 1964, was suspended for one year and until further order of the Court. He violated a court order to place $10,000 in a trust account for the benefit of clients by placing the money into a personal investment account opened in his own name. He then used the investment account to trade stocks and earn money to satisfy his personal financial obligations. He also failed to reduce a contingent fee agreement to writing.

    Darren Anthony Fish, Chicago
    Mr. Fish, who was licensed in 2006, was suspended for six months and until he successfully completes the ARDC Professionalism Seminar. While operating a firm concentrating in mortgage foreclosure and mortgage loan modification matters, he commingled client funds with his own, divided legal fees with non-lawyers, and failed to keep clients informed about the status of their matters. The suspension is effective on June 8, 2016.

    Gary N. Foley, Round Lake Beach
    Mr. Foley, who was licensed in 1996, was suspended for one year and until he completes the terms of his supervised release in his federal criminal case. In order to help his then-spouse, he devised and participated in a plan to purchase his wife’s property through a purported short sale wherein he prepared the closing documents as attorney for both his wife, the seller, and then falsely concealed the source of the funds for the purchase of the home and the fact that he was the buyer. In response to a subsequent inquiry about the property from the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, he prepared an e-mail for use by one of the real estate brokers involved in the sale falsely reflecting the source of the earnest money funds for the purchase. As a result of his conduct, Mr. Foley was charged with, and pled guilty to, wire fraud affecting a financial institution. The suspension is effective on June 8, 2016.

    Joseph Preston Harris, Forest Park
    Mr. Harris, who was licensed in 1965, was suspended for six months and until he makes certain restitution. He neglected four different client matters, failed to communicate with those clients, and did not refund an unearned fee of $2,000 to one of those clients.

    G. Ronald Kesinger, Jacksonville
    Mr. Kesinger, who was licensed in 1973, was suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the Court. The suspension is effective on June 1, 2016. While representing an elderly widow in the probate of her late husband’s estate, Mr. Kesinger obtained a $26,000 loan from her without advising her that their interests in the transaction conflicted, that she could seek independent advice, and without obtaining her informed written consent to the transaction. In another matter, while he represented a couple against a bank in a mortgage foreclosure proceeding, he entered into an agreement with the bank to purchase his clients’ house, without the clients’ knowledge or consent. Finally, he made false statements to a bank concerning his liabilities in an application for a personal mortgage loan.

    Nancy J. Murphy, River Forest
    Ms. Murphy, who was licensed in 1990, was suspended for six months. She represented a husband in a divorce and sought custody of the parties’ minor child for her client. When the husband and wife reconciled, Ms. Murphy engaged in a conflict of interest by representing the husband’s parents in their attempt to gain custody of the child. She also charged $8,000 in fees to another client’s credit card without authorization to do so. The suspension is effective on June 8, 2016.

    Rostyslav Saciuk, Palatine
    Mr. Saciuk, who was licensed in 2007, was suspended for one year and until he successfully completes the ARDC Professionalism Seminar. He converted approximately $23,000 in client and third-party funds while handling two personal injury cases. The suspension is effective on June 8, 2016.

    Frank Anthony Santilli, Chicago
    Mr. Santilli, who was licensed in 1989, was suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the court. According to charges pending against him before the Hearing Board, he knowingly misappropriated over $500,000 in client settlement funds and signed a medical lienholder’s signature to three settlement checks without authority.

    Karen Walin, Berwyn
    Ms. Walin, who was licensed in 1986, was suspended for sixty days. She engaged in a conflict of interest by drafting a trust agreement for her client in which she was named a beneficiary. She also represented that same client in the sale of a townhouse to an employee of her firm, and prepared a purchase agreement and installment note under terms favorable to the employee. The suspension is effective on June 8, 2016.

    David Paul Wiener, Chicago
    Mr. Wiener, who was licensed in 1969, was suspended for one year and until further order of the Court. On September 21, 2015, the Supreme Court suspended him for one year and until further order of the Court, with the suspension stayed in its entirety by a two-year period of conditional probation. He did not take the necessary steps to pursue his clients’ interests in three criminal cases, did not adequately communicate with those clients, did not return $9,000 in unearned fees, and made a misrepresentation about the status of one of those matters. In addition, in another criminal case, he failed to communicate with his client and did not return $4,000 in unearned fees. Because he failed to avoid alcohol usage, and missed taking random alcohol screening tests, the Court revoked his probation.

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