ARDC Hearing Board Recommends Disbarment for Thefts And Efforts to Cover Up Misconduct

Filed February 9:

This is a very serious case where the lawyer was accused of converting client funds from a settlement and other misconduct. He was found guilty on Count I, which accused him of converting in excess of $32,000 in settlement funds. He was also found guilty in Count II of giving false testimony in a deposition. In Count III, the lawyer was found to have testified falsely in a disciplinary matter and found to have created false documents to cover up his misconduct. The lawyer apparently had false receipts prepared and he convinced his client to sign them. The Panel was not persuaded:

Rule 8.1(a) specifically provides that a lawyer, “in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact.” Comment [1] to Rule 8.1 states that “it is a separate professional offense for a lawyer to knowingly make a misrepresentation or omission in connection with a disciplinary investigation of the lawyer’s own conduct.”
The letter sent to Respondent by Administrator’s counsel on July 7, 2015, expressly informed Respondent that there was an active disciplinary investigation into his conduct. (Adm. Ex. 15). Additionally, the voice messages Respondent left on Breeden’s telephone answering machine show that Respondent was fully aware of the disciplinary investigation and that he was preparing 19 receipts to be signed by Breeden for the purpose of documenting to Administrator’s counsel that Respondent paid Breeden the money set out on the receipts. (Adm. Ex. 21 at 14, 16, 20, 22, 24). Also, the Respondent’s testimony at the hearing and in his sworn statement on December 8, 2015, show that he did submit the 19 receipts to the ARDC and claimed them to be truthful. (Tr. 142-43; Adm. Ex. 23 at 35, 38-39). Consequently, the Respondent’s creation and submission of the receipts to the ARDC; his statements to Breeden in August 2015 to get Breeden to sign the 19 receipts; and his testimony in his sworn statement pertained to material facts in connection with a disciplinary matter.
In our Analysis and Conclusions in section (1) of Count I, above, we found that the Respondent intentionally took and used (converted) more than $32,000 in settlement funds from his client Mark Breeden’s personal injury case, knowing that he had no authority to do so. We
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also found that the Respondent did not distribute to Breeden any of the funds set out on the 19 receipts he prepared and which Breeden signed in August 2015. (Adm. Ex. 22). Additionally, we found that Respondent made false representations to Breeden to get Breeden to sign the 19 fraudulent receipts. We further found that Respondent prepared the 19 receipts knowing they were false and with the intent to present false evidence to the ARDC.
Based upon our findings in Count I, we find that, in connection with a disciplinary investigation, Respondent knowingly made false statements of material fact by knowingly creating and submitting false receipts to the ARDC. He also made false statements to Breeden that he (Respondent) was holding money for and would distribute it to Breeden. The purpose of the foregoing statements was to convince Breeden to sign the fraudulent receipts. In fact, Respondent had already taken and used the funds in question.
We also find that Respondent knowingly testified falsely during his sworn statement on December 8, 2015. He falsely testified that “I had paid out the money to Breeden over a period of time in cash;” that the 19 receipts signed by Breeden accurately showed the “cash disbursements to Mark Breeden;” and that all the receipts were signed by Breeden “on or about the dates indicated” on the receipts. (Adm. Ex. 23 at 35, 38).
Based upon the above, we find that the Administrator proved by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent knowingly made false statements of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter, in violation of Rule 8.1(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).
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2.    The Administrator also charges in Count III that Respondent engaged in conduct involving fraud, dishonesty, deceit, or misrepresentation by making false statements to Mark Breeden; by knowingly creating and submitting false receipts to the ARDC; and by testifying falsely at his sworn statement to the ARDC on December 8, 2015, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

Based on our findings in section (1), above, we also find that Respondent engaged in fraud, dishonesty, deceit, or misrepresentation. By knowingly and purposefully making false statements to Mark Breeden, creating and submitting false receipts to the ARDC, and testifying falsely at his sworn statement Respondent engaged in conduct calculated to deceive his client and the ARDC. See Thomas, 2012 IL 113035, pars. 89-90. Therefore, we find that the Administrator proved by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent engaged in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).
On Counts V (failing to maintain trust account records) and Count VI (failing to file a lawsuit on time) the Panel also found against the respondent.
The Panel recommended disbarment.
Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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