Five attorneys were disbarred in Illinois and an additional dozen were suspended in the latest round of disciplinary actions handed down by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Among those disbarred was attorney Christian Chenoweth, of Chicago. According to disciplinary reports posted by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which serves as an advisory body to the state high court on professional lawyer discipline, Chenoweth pleaded guilty in October 2014 to a charge of retail theft in Cook County Circuit Court.
Further, the ARDC said Chenoweth’s alleged list of improprieties contributing to his disbarment included mishandling at least $10,000 of money related to clients’ real estate transactions. According to the ARDC report, Chenoweth received $10,000 in earnest money from a client who was selling some property, and was to hold it in escrow until the closing of the sale. Chenoweth, however, deposited the money into his business bank account, spent at least some of the money and, as of March 22, had not repaid the money to his former client, the report said.
Further, the report said Chenoweth may have also mishandled more than $120,000 of another client’s money, held in a trust, related to other land transactions in Chicago. The report alleged Chenoweth also spent some of that money “for his own business or personal purposes.”
Other lawyers disbarred by the state Supreme Court included:
- Tanya Y. Brockington, of Homewood, who had been similarly disbarred in Georgia “for neglecting three immigration matters” and “failing to return unearned fees;”
- Raymond L. Huff, of Peoria, who allegedly practiced law in 2015 while still serving a one-year suspension;
- Larry J. Meyer, of Chicago, who allegedly “misappropriated more than $150,000 in client funds, provided incorrect information to clients about the funds that he received on their behalf, and borrowed $10,000 from a client without making the required conflict of interest disclosures;”
- Emmanuel E. Okere, of Chicago, who allegedly misled “an elderly client” into giving him $20,000 to invest in a “fraudulent investment scheme,” as well as persuading the client to personally loan him additional money. The Supreme Court release said Okere also “charged excessive fees.”
In addition to those disbarred, the state Supreme Court also suspended 12 other Illinois lawyers, including:
- John W. Pleta, of Mokena, suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the court, after he was “charged in a disciplinary complaint with misappropriating more than $1.2 million in funds belonging to a probate estate,” the release from the court said;
- Edmund B. Moran, of Chicago, for two years, effective April 12, 2016, and until he satisfies a judgment against him over his alleged mishandling of $360,000 in a family trust;
- Bryan R. Bagdady, of Lisle, for one year. The court said Bagdady was accused of persuading a client to invest money “in two different ventures in which he had an ownership interest.” The client lost her investment, the court said;
- David J. Fitzpatrick, of Des Plaines, one year, effective April 12, 2016, and ordered to pay restitution for his alleged actions to “not promptly pay approximately $30,000 he withheld from client settlements … and later converted those funds to his own use;”
- Kenneth A. Leeds, of St. Louis, one year and until further order of the court, with the suspension fully stayed by a two-year probation retroactive to Sept. 30, 2014. According to the court, Leeds had also been suspended indefinitely in Missouri, with the suspension fully stayed by a two-year conditional probation period, for allegedly improperly mixing client money with his own and improperly advancing $6,000 to clients;
- Anne Marie Beckert, of Chicago, for six months and until further order of the court, with the suspension stayed after 90 days by a one year period of probation, for allegedly failing to refund client costs and mishandling other client matters;
- Steven W. Berg, of Springfield, 6 months, effective April 12, 2016, and ordered to pay restitution for unearned fees he received in connection with two workers compensation cases;
- Cassidy A. David, of Chicago, 6 months, effective April 12, 2016, for allegedly writing a “backdated letter purporting to show that she had timely mailed a document to the county recorder,” and then telling her employer and the ARDC the letter was genuine;
- James P. Greene, of Chicago, 90 days, effective April 12, 2016, and ordered to pay restitution after allegedly borrowing $10,000 from a client without making required interest disclosures and delaying in repaying the money, among other alleged ethical violations;
- James A. Hajek, of St. Louis, Mo., six months and until further order of the court, with the suspension fully stayed by a one-year probation, retroactive to Oct. 28, 2014. According to the court, Hajek had been suspended indefinitely in Missouri for blending client money with his own business funds and paying personal expenses from that account.
- James L. Karraker, of Anna, 90 days, effective April 12, 2016, and ordered to pay restitution for allegedly not returning an unearned fee to a client he had represented in a criminal case; and
- David J. Peilet, of Chicago, 90 days, with the suspension stayed by a one-year conditional probation. According to the state, Peilet was accused of neglecting a client’s criminal appeal.
The court also censured attorney Daniel G. Koryn, of Los Angeles, placing him on two year probation, retroactive to Oct. 16, 2014; and reprimanded attorney Ronald J. Kurpiers II, of Tampa, Fla.