ARDC panel urges disbarment for attorney accused of stealing client money "like a predator"

By Jonathan Bilyk | Mar 17, 2014

A Schaumburg lawyer accused of stealing $600,000 from his clients, his cousins and even his dying aunt and uncle will face disbarment if the Illinois Supreme Court affirms the recommendation of a state attorney disciplinary panel.

A Schaumburg lawyer accused of stealing $600,000 from his clients, his cousins and even his dying aunt and uncle will face disbarment if the Illinois Supreme Court affirms the recommendation of a state attorney disciplinary panel.

On March 10, a panel of the Review Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) recommended that attorney Lino John Menconi be disbarred as discipline for misconduct, which included allegations “misappropriated more than $600,000, settled a case without authority, forged his secretary’s notary, intentionally misled the clients, and engaged in other numerous instances of dishonesty.”

The disbarment recommendation came at the request of the ARDC administrator, who did not believe the ARDC Hearing Board had gone far enough in recommending that Menconi’s law license be suspended for three years.

The Illinois Supreme Court, which placed Menconi on an interim suspension in November 2013,  has the final say in most attorney disciplinary matters.

The ARDC lodged a four-count complaint against Menconi in 2011 over his alleged mishandling of settlements for his clients, some of whom were also family members.

According to the complaint, the misconduct began in 2006, when Menconi allegedly settled a personal injury claim against a restaurant for $3,000 without his client’s knowledge or consent. He had told the client that the claim should have been worth $15,000 to $20,000, the complaint notes.

When he received the check from the restaurant’s insurance company, he allegedly forged his client’s signature on the check, forged her signature again on the insurance company’s release form, along with that of his secretary, as notary, and then deposited the money into his own business account.

About two years later, when confronted by the client, the ARDC claims Menconi “settled” the matter by paying her $5,000.

The alleged misconduct intensified in 2007, when Menconi agreed to a $247,000 settlement on behalf of a client in a termination suit against the client’s former employer.

The client, however, initially refused to accept the payment and would not sign the check. Menconi, according to the ARDC complaint, then forged the client’s signature and used the money to pay a host of business and personal expenses.

Three months later, the client asked Menconi for the money. Menconi didn’t have the required sum on hand, so the commission asserts he strung the client along for three weeks until he took money from a different settlement he had handled on behalf of family members to cover an overdrawn check he wrote to the client for $173,000.

In that settlement, Menconi settled personal injuries claims over an automobile accident on behalf of his aunt and uncle for $325,000 in September 2007.

In October, Menconi allegedly forged his relatives’ signatures on settlement checks, including one that had been written to a hospital, and deposited the check into his own account.

By February 2008, the ARDC contends in its complaint that all of his aunt and uncle’s settlement money had been spent.

During this time, his aunt was dying of cancer, and had written a letter to Menconi instructing him how to divide the settlement proceeds.

His aunt died in 2009, and his uncle followed about a year later. Before his uncle’s death, however, the complaint Menconi prepared a power of attorney, giving him control of his uncle’s annuity and investment accounts, from which he allegedly stole an additional $192,592.

Menconi was later sued by his cousins, and settled the matter for $95,000.

In its March 10 recommendation and report, the ARDC Review Board noted that Menconi had not even bothered to respond to the disbarment request.

The board wrote in its report that precedent backs disbarment and Menconi’s actions amounted to theft.

“Stealing client’s money is exactly what the respondent (Menconi) did. Further, he did so over a number of years. Some were elderly relatives who trusted him as clients are encouraged to do,” the report states.”Like a predator, if he had a need, he used his license as a lawyer to steal.”

Acknowledging the Hearing Board noted in its September report that Menconi had no prior attorney discipline and had not been charged criminally with theft, the Review Board wrote in its report that it did “not find this distinction worth much.”

“In fact, the respondent (Menconi) is probably fortunate in this regard,” the Review Board states in its report. “In our view, these were substantial thefts of money and done as noted to multiple parties over a period of time.”

The Review Board that issued the report and reccomendation in Menconi's matter consisted of Richard A. Green, Robert M. Henderson and Gordon B. Nash Jr.

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