A Turkish Chicago restaurateur and businessman has filed suit against a Chicago-based immigration and business law firm, alleging its principals misled him into investing hundreds of thousands of dollars of his money and time into promoting the law firm under the mistaken belief he would be an owner of the firm, when they knew he, as a non-lawyer, could not be an equity partner in the venture.
On July 15, Zengo S. Dogan – who elsewhere is also known as Shaw Dogan – filed his complaint in Cook County Circuit Court against Atom Law Group LLC and attorneys Togai K. Atac and Sohyoon L. Atac, a husband and wife team identified in the complaint as members and managers of the Atom firm.
According to the complaint, the Atacs approached Dogan in 2007, discussing with him the chance to invest in their planned new law firm. Dogan alleged at the time, he was promised an equal 34 percent ownership stake in the new firm in exchange for his investment.
“Zengo said he did not know anything about the law business. Togai and SohYoon said they were approaching Zengo for his business experience and he knew how to open an office, and because Togai and SohYoon said that Zengo knew many people in downtown Chicago and in the business community, Zengo would be a rainmaker for the new law firm and bring in new clients,” Dogan’s complaint said.
Dogan said they made a number of promises about securing an ownership stake for him, despite knowing “that under Illinois law that Zengo, a non-attorney, could never actually be an owner/part-owner of a law firm in Illinois.”
Dogan said he initially contributed $15,000, and later increased his investment to $22,000, equivalent to the amounts contributed by the Atacs.
According to the complaint, Dogan said “the explicit understanding of the parties” was that Dogan would serve as the firm’s “marketing director” and “chief rainmaker.” Dogan said he “brought in several legal clients, including two of Atom’s biggest clients, who continue to be clients of Atom and who have brought additional matters and continued work for Atom.”
Dogan said he agreed to forego much of his salary, including contributing a portion back into the firm “for advertising purposes.”
He said the Atacs “deflected” his requests for a written partnership agreement until 2011, when they “finally told Zengo there never was and never would be a partnership position for him in Atom.” He was then “fired” from his position at Atom in July 2011.
In all, Dogan estimated he contributed about $216,000 in “time and labor towards the success of Atom,” plus about $100,000 in “reinvested salary” and $22,000 out-of-pocket.
Dogan has alleged fraud against the Atacs and unjust enrichment against the firm.
He has asked the court to order the firm to account for his investments and to order the firm to pay him back for the investments. He has asked the court to appoint a receiver to govern the accounting and payment.
Dogan is represented by attorney David G. Sigale, of Glen Ellyn.
On an online profile, Dogan boasts of numerous accomplishments, including establishing an international basketball academy, founding restaurants in Chicago and helping to establish the “first Chicago based Turkish law firm.”