Wisconsin Suspends Attorney Six Months For Fabricating Travel Receipts

The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in an opinion released on December 18, 2019, has disciplined an attorney for submitting false receipts for (a) an ABA meeting and (b) hotel charges for attending another seminar.

The opinion recites the key facts as follows:

¶7 In October 2016, Attorney Bant and her supervisor agreed that Attorney Bant would attend an American Bar Association seminar in New Orleans, Louisiana. On October 31, 2016, Attorney Bant submitted a request for reimbursement of the $1,115 fee listed on a fabricated seminar registration receipt that Attorney Bant had created using computer editing software. The fabricated receipt listed the dates of the seminar as December 8 and 9, 2016, even though the seminar was actually scheduled to take place on November 3 and 4, 2016. Attorney Bant’s employer paid her the requested sum of $1,115 for the seminar fee.

¶8 Attorney Bant told her employer that she would fly to New Orleans for the seminar on Wednesday, December 7, 2016, and would attend the seminar on December 8 and 9, 2016. But Attorney Bant did not go to New Orleans on those dates; as mentioned above, the seminar had occurred over a month earlier. A coworker spotted Attorney Bant in town on the morning of Friday, December 9, 2016.

The lawyer submitted other false documents, including fake Uber receipts, when she was confronted by her supervisor.

The lawyer resigned from the firm and reimbursed the firm for the false charge for the ABA meeting. the investigation also uncovered a bill for a hotel stay that was fraudulent.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered a six-month suspension of the attorney.

¶26 Turning now to the question of the proper level of discipline, we agree with the referee’s recommendation for a six- month license suspension. Our precedent demonstrates that this court takes a dim view of a lawyer’s creation and use of false documentation for the purpose of misleading others. For example, in In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Donovan, 211 Wis. 2d 451, 564 N.W.2d 772 (1997), this court imposed a six-month license suspension on an attorney who filed false documents with the court in order to obtain favorable treatment for an acquaintance and for a former boyfriend in cases she was prosecuting as a municipal attorney. In In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Spangler, 2016 WI 61, 370 Wis. 2d 369, 881 N.W.2d 35, this court imposed a six-month suspension on an attorney who created an array of meticulously faked documents to support false representations made to his clients that their lawsuits were pending when in fact they were not. We particularly noted in Spangler that the misconduct involved was not “a passive type of error,” but was rather “an affirmative act of deception and a betrayal of the trust” others had placed in the respondent-lawyer. Id., ¶36.

The case is In the Matter of Bant, 2019 WI 107.

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