Cook County Record

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Stamp collector alleges lawyer's malpractice allowed company to steal $1 million collection

By Jonathan Bilyk | May 18, 2015

A collector of rare stamps and coins, who claims to have held a collection valued at as much as $2 million, has sued his lawyer for malpractice, alleging the attorney bungled litigation the collector had brought against a group he claimed had “stolen” more than $1 million worth of “valuable stamps and postal history.”

On May 15, Seymour Ehrenpreis, of Skokie, filed a legal malpractice complaint in Cook County Circuit Court demanding $1 million in damages against lawyer Eliot Landau, of Landau & Associates, of Woodridge.

In his complaint, Ehrenrpeis alleges Landau “completely mishandled” his case, filing the action in the wrong jurisdiction and taking other actions which “greatly weakened” an otherwise “strong case,” eventually pressing Ehrenpreis into settling for much less than Ehrenpreis believed his case should have allowed.

The case arose out of Ehrenpreis’ attempt to sell his stamp and coin collection, which he had assembled over the course of 25 years. In 2006, Ehrenpreis contacted David Coogle, then president of Nutmeg Stamp Company, of Danbury, Conn., to facilitate the transaction.

According to Ehrenpreis’ complaint, Ehrenpreis handed over “a large quantity of stamps and coins” to Nutmeg Stamp, which were allegedly shipped to Connecticut.

Ehrenpreis said he requested a complete inventory of the collection, but it never came.

He then requested his collection be returned. However, he said upon its return, he discovered “vast quantities of the best Italian stamps” were missing.

Ehrenpreis said Coogle admitted to removing stamps, and said he would sell them at auction. That never happened, either, Ehrenpreis said.

Ehrenpreis said, in 2007, he obtained “incontrovertible proof” to back his allegations Coogle had removed about $300,000 in stamps from his collection and alleged Coogle had “forged documents to cover up his theft.”

Altogether, Ehrenpreis estimated his loss from his dealings with Nutmeg Stamp at more than $800,000.

Ehrenpreis, through Landau, eventually sued Coogle, Nutmeg Stamp and others in Cook County in 2009.

However, Ehrenpreis said Landau should have known the case would be removed to federal court in New York, as was required under the terms of Ehrenrpeis’ contract with Nutmeg. This removal, Ehrenrpeis said, cost him time in pressing his case and money in additional, unnecessary court costs.

Further, Ehrenrpeis said Landau did not inform him he was not eligible to practice law in New York, nor did he attempt to obtain local counsel for Ehrenpreis.

From there, Ehrenpreis alleges Landau “handled the case in a negligent manner,” failing to comply with schedules required by judges and failing to “develop critical evidence” and use the evidence Ehrenpreis had supplied him.

Among other pieces of evidence and testimony, Ehrenpreis said Landau neglected to introduce key affidavits or written reevaluations from stamp experts attesting to the value of Ehrenpreis’ missing stamps, allegedly telling Coogle’s attorneys “the $1 million evaluation of Ehrenpreis’ Italian stamp collections was ‘still under investigation.’”

As the case wore on, Ehrenpreis said Landaua “gave … every stall story imaginable,” not working on the case for months at a time.

Ehrenpreis further alleged Landau’s office double-billed him at times.

Eventually, Landau agreed to settle Ehrenpreis’ case for $78,000. Since then, Ehrenrpreis said he received just $50,000 for the sale of certain Italian stamps at auction.

Ehrenpreis is represented in the action by attorneys Donald L. Johnson and Julie A. Boynton, of Chicago.



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