Bethany Krajelis Sep. 16, 2014, 2:03pm

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday disbarred nine lawyers, including two former Chicago area attorneys who were convicted and sentenced to 15-years in prison for their involvement in separate criminal schemes.

In addition to the disbarments, the justices handed down orders during their September term suspending 15 attorneys, reprimanding five and censuring two others, including a downstate prosecutor accused of making improper and racially-based arguments during a murder trial. 

The two attorneys with prison sentences who no longer belong to the Illinois bar are Paul Daugerdas and Norton Helton.

Both were disbarred on consent, which means the justices granted their motions to strike their names from the roster of attorneys. This was the case with five of the nine disbarred attorneys. Some of the other disciplined attorneys consented to their punishment as well.

Daugerdas, who was licensed in 1974 and practiced with the now-defunct firms of Altheimer & Gray and Jenkens & Gilchrist, was convicted last year in Manhattan’s federal court for his involvement in a tax shelter scheme. He was sentenced earlier this summer to 15 years behind bars.

Prosecutors accused Daugerdas, a certified public accountant, of hatching the scheme while working at Arthur Andersen and continuing it while practicing at the two law firms. The 20-year- scheme apparently generated more than $7 billion in fraudulent tax losses and about $95 million in fees to Daugerdas personally.

Helton, who was licensed in 1993 and was in private practice, was convicted in 2010 for his involvement in schemes that claimed to help financially distressed homeowners, but actually tricked them into giving up their homes and declaring bankruptcy.  

He was accused of participating in more than 100 fraudulent mortgage bailout transactions and at least a dozen fraudulent bankruptcies in 2004 and 2005. A federal judge in Chicago sentenced Helton to a 15-year prison term in 2012 and ordered him to pay more than $3 million in restitution.

The Supreme Court, according to its orders and a news release from the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), also disbarred the following attorneys:

  • Clarence Contee Jones Jr. of Tacoma, Wash. was disbarred as reciprocal discipline. He “was disbarred in Washington for sexually exploiting office staff over whom he had supervisory authority” and “entered guilty pleas to four misdemeanor counts of assault in the fourth degree with sexual motivation,” according to the ARDC release.
  • Grant Dongjin Kang of Washington, Mo. was disbarred on consent for misappropriating money that clients had advanced him for patent application fees and other costs, as well as for failing to respond to client inquiries.
  • Brian P. Lee of Wheaton, Ill. was disbarred on consent. He “pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge after he knowingly devised and participated in a scheme to obtain money from an elderly couple in San Diego County, California, through false and fraudulent pretenses,” the ARDC release notes.
  • David Michael Levin of Deerfield, Ill. was disbarred for practicing while his law license was suspended and misappropriating $24,000 in client settlement funds.
  • James Geoffrey McGowan of Geneva, Ill. was disbarred on consent for failing to keep client funds separate from his own and using nearly $50,000 in client money for his own purposes.
  • Lino John Menconi of Schaumburg, Ill. was disbarred for misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars from his clients, two of whom were relatives.  The court suspended him on interim basis in November 2013 and an ARDC panel in March recommended disbarment.
  • Thomas William Murphy of Chicago, Ill. was disbarred for engaging in a conflict of interest and misappropriating more than half a million dollars in trust funds and money from real estate transactions. He was suspended on an interim basis in May.
The justices suspended the following attorneys: Alan Wadsworth Applebee of Jacksonville; Nicholas B. Carter of St. Louis, Mo.; Carey Laurence Chickerneo of Prospect Heights; Bernard James Conway of Chicago; James DiChristofano of Harwood Heights; Michael J. Duval of Kankakee; John Edward Farrell of Park Ridge; Guy D. Geleerd Jr. of Chicago; Henry Elbert Graper III of Anchorage, Alaska; Tina Marie Jacobs of Chicago; Robert Little of Memphis, Tenn.; Thomas McGrath O’Connor of Wheaton; Kevin R. Peters of Chicago; Jeffrey S. Ryan of Breckenridge, Colo.;  and Samuel Vazanellis of Highland, Ind.

In addition, they reprimanded Mary Albert-Fritz of Decorah, Iowa; Jacqueline Elise Kalk of Minneapolis, Minn.; Peter J. Kovac of Milwaukee, Wisc.; John C. Trojsesen of Los Angeles, Calif.; and Alan Kentwittig of Queen Creek, Ariz. while censuring Douglas W. Lohmar Jr. of Chicago and Charles R. Garnati of Marion.

Documents in attorney disciplinary cases, including the initial complaint, can be found on the ARDC's website by searching the attorney's name and then clicking on the "Rules and Decisions" link.

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