Sunday, May 28, 2017

Disciplinary Actions Against Attorneys Purloining Or Otherwise Misusing Ten$ Of Thousand$ In Client Funds Keep Illinois State Bar Busy

The Illinois State Bar Association recently announced that the state Supreme Court disbarred 7 attorneys, suspended 9 others in a latest disciplinary filing.

The following three lawyers were disbarred for, among other things in some cases, playing fast and loose with their clients' money:
  • Francis Joseph Coyle, Jr., Rock Island
    Mr. Coyle, who was licensed in 1974, was disbarred. He intentionally misappropriated $100,000 in funds that he was supposed to be holding in escrow in connection with a real estate transaction. In addition, on two occasions, he falsely represented to the buyer’s attorney that he was still holding all of the funds in escrow.

    Laird James Heal, Sterling, Massachusetts
    Heal was licensed in Massachusetts in 1989 and in Illinois in 1991. The Supreme Judicial Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts disbarred him for misusing over $13,000 of funds held in escrow in connection with a bankruptcy case. The Supreme Court of Illinois imposed reciprocal discipline and disbarred him.

    Richard Carl Moenning, Chicago
    Mr. Moenning, who was licensed in 1962, was disbarred. While serving as both trustee and trust counsel to several trusts created by two elderly sisters, he paid himself over $360,000 in purported fees without performing sufficient services to justify the payment of the funds. He also took years to notify or pay some of the trust beneficiaries, failed to disburse any funds to one beneficiary as of the time of the disciplinary hearing, failed to timely notify some of the beneficiaries of their interests under the trusts, and never provided an accounting to any of the beneficiaries or to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. He was suspended on an interim basis on June 15, 2016.
In addition, the following five attorneys had their licenses suspended for varying periods of time for playing fast and loose with money belonging to their clients:
  • William James Meacham, Edwardsville
    Mr. Meacham, who was licensed in 1989, was suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the Court. An ARDC hearing panel earlier recommended that he be disbarred for knowingly misappropriating $32,083 of a client’s personal injury settlement funds. In addition, he told a lien holder that he did not know what had happened to the money and then created false receipts falsely purporting to show that he had distributed most of the funds to the client.

    Baltazar Mendoza, Chicago
    Mr. Mendoza, who was licensed in 2001, was suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the Court. The ARDC was investigating allegations that he had misappropriated more than more than $243,000 from several different clients and neglected a client’s matter and made misrepresentations to the client regarding the status of that matter.

    Jay Lawrence Miller, Barrington
    Mr. Miller, who was licensed in 1967, was suspended for one year and until he completes the ARDC Professionalism Seminar. In three separate matters, he converted a total of approximately $85,000 in funds belonging to clients or third parties during a time when he was having financial difficulties. The suspension is effective on June 8, 2017.

    Dennis Brian Porick, Joliet
    Mr. Porick, who was licensed in 1982, was suspended for eighteen months. He converted over $10,000 belonging to three separate clients whom he represented in collection matters. He also endorsed two of his clients’ names to checks he received on their behalf without the clients’ authorization. The suspension is effective on June 8, 2017.

    Diane Marie Wilkins, Chicago
    Ms. Wilkins, who was licensed in 1999, was suspended from the practice of law for two years and until further order of the Court. She misappropriated $21,648.55 from a client and made false statements to the ARDC during the course of the disciplinary investigation.
Finally, the following attorney was censured for apparently losing track of exactly for whom he was holding escrow money:
  • Karlo Michael Karacic, Chicago
    Mr. Karacic, who was licensed in 1987, was censured. While representing the sellers in a residential real estate transaction, he failed to preserve the identity of $1,137 in escrow funds that his firm had agreed to hold.
Source: Illinois Supreme Court Disbars Seven, Suspends Nine, Reprimands Three, Censures Three.

Editor's Note: The Client Protection Program of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) was established by the Supreme Court of Illinois to provide reimbursement to clients who have lost money or property because of dishonest conduct by lawyers admitted to practice law in the State of Illinois. The Program reimburses clients who cannot get reimbursement from the lawyers who caused their losses, or from other sources such as insurance. (But see Stolen Inheritances: I-Team lawyer warning, in which one Illinois victim said of the program, "Their rules are vague, ambiguous and they are applied at their own discretion, and you can't get a straight answer[.]")

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

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