An Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission’s hearing board has recommended the Supreme Court of Illinois strip the license of an imprisoned lawyer, who the regulators assert showed no remorse for committing a multi-million dollar fraud.
A federal jury in Buffalo, N.Y. found Frank E. Peters Jr. guilty in 2007 of conspiracy to commit bank fraud by overvaluing security, making a false statement to a bank, bank fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud. Peters was sentenced in February 2011 to nine years in prison and to pay $11.2 million restitution to Chase Bank, $750,661 to the U.S. Small Business Administration and to forfeit $23 million to the U.S. government. Another man was also convicted in the case.
Peters, 67, was licensed to practice law in Illinois in 1972 and was listed with an office in Avon, Colo. He had homes in Palm Desert, Calif. and Aspen, Colo.
Peters was president of World Auto Parts, Inc. and Big Horn Core, Ltd., which sold after-market auto parts. The companies had asset-based loans with Chase Bank. After the loans failed in 2000, it came to light Peters had grossly inflated the value of the assets and made other false representations to the bank, as well as having created another company to divert money that should have gone to Chase Bank. Further, Peters tried to obstruct Chase’s effort to determine the status of Peters’ companies.
Peters spent money he obtained through the fraud to buy real estate and pay debt.
In August 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court suspended Peters’ Illinois law license until further order of the court, because of his convictions. A complaint was then filed against Peters with the ARDC. The complaint next went to the ARDC hearing board, which addressed the matter May 11, 2015, with Peters representing himself. Peters acknowledged his criminal convictions, but said he was innocent – going so far as to claim he was actually a victim of the fraud, not a perpetrator.
Peters contended “only a fool or a moron would suggest” he defrauded himself. Peters continued by saying that although he did not benefit from his companies’ investments, he was ordered as part of his sentence to forfeit assets “in some perverted sense of logic.”
The hearing board, in its report issued Aug. 10, said board members considered Peters’ denial of guilt as evidence he did not have the “slightest bit of regret for or understanding of the wrongfulness of his actions.” On the contrary, his protestations of innocence were “demeaning to the legal profession and the justice system, which he, as an officer of the court, should respect.”
The hearing board noted Peters had never been the subject of regulatory discipline before and his misconduct did not involve a client.
Weighing the aggravating and mitigating factors, as well as the nature of Peters’ crimes, the hearing board still recommended the state high court disbar Peters, saying Peters’ dishonest conduct was serious enough to merit the permanent loss of his license.
The next step, if Peters chooses to take it, is for him to appeal the Hearing Board’s recommendation to an ARDC review board. Whatever decision that review board makes then goes to the Supreme Court of Illinois, which would render the ultimate decision on Peters’ license.
Peters is incarcerated at the low-security Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution in California. He is scheduled to be released Nov. 13, 2017.