A woman who pleaded guilty for her role in allegedly helping her husband, the president of a failed bank, obtain more than $6 million in federal bank-bailout money, has now had her law license taken from her, as well.
On Sept. 22, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission announced the Illinois Supreme Court had disbarred Shamim Esmail, of Evanston.
Esmail was one of 16 lawyers disbarred by the state’s high court in its latest round of disciplinary actions against lawyers licensed in Illinois accused of misdeeds. The court also suspended 34 other attorneys for varying amounts of time.
In late 2016, Esmail pleaded guilty in Cook County court to charges accusing her of using her position as a member of the board of directors and general counsel at Wilmette-based Premier Bank to “knowingly submit falsified call reports, which distorted the bank’s loan portfolio,” according to a release from the ARDC. The allegedly falsified documents enabled to the now-failed bank to obtain as much as $7 million in funds under the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Esmail’s husband, Zulifkar Esmail, had served as chairman at the bank. He was also indicted and pleaded guilty to similar charges. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
Shamim Esmail was sentenced to two years’ probation and 250 hours of community service. She had been licensed to practice law since 1996.
Also disbarred was attorney Raymond E. Clutts, of Chicago. In February, Clutts pleaded guilty in Lake County court to charges stemming from his 2014 invasion of his ex-wife’s home in Hawthorn Woods, during which he allegedly fired a handgun and threatened his ex-wife, all in front of their two children.
Clutts was sentenced to 10 years in prison under a plea deal.
This month, the Illinois Supreme Court also disbarred:
- Douglas A. Willis, of Oakbrook Terrace. A corporate attorney for Intertek Professional Service Industries, Willis was charged in 2016 of producing child pornography from 1993-2001.
- James Allen, of Dixon, who was convicted for a second time of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol.
- Lawrence Kallen, of Chicago, who the ARDC said misused $1.5 million of funds held in escrow as part of judicial foreclosure proceedings.
- Dirk L. Van Beek, of Tinley Park, who the ARDC said collected about $20,000 in fees for participating in a scheme to file “weed cutting liens and lien releases on behalf of Cook County municipalities that he did not represent.”
- Leslie Ann Klocek, of Gurnee, who the ARDC said made herself trustee of an elderly client’s $1 million estate, entitling her to two-thirds of the funds. The ARDC said she spent $400,000 of the funds before she was removed as trustee.
- Domenic J. Lupo, of Chicago. Lupo pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges stemming from work he did to help a client conceal income to short the client’s ex-wife nearly $827,000 “in maintenance and child support payments” and save $250,000 in federal income taxes.
- Joseph H. King Jr., of Aurora. The ARDC said King mishandled clients’ bankruptcies and paid himself without authorization, resulting in the bankruptcies being delayed or dismissed.
- Sam S. Zegar, of Burbank, who the ARDC misappropriated more than $116,000 in client funds and improperly borrowed $20,000 from a client.
- Dennis H. Sherman, of Chicago, who the ARDC had sought to suspend for mishandling $5,600 in client funds in five criminal cases. Sherman, however, “preferred to strike his name from the roll of attorneys,” the ARDC said.
- Delbert K. Pruitt, of Paducah, Ky. According to the ARDC, Pruitt, while acting as an intermediary to help a woman collect $400 per month from her ex-husband, allegedly did not inform his client of many of those payments and “knowingly misappropriated $4,894 of the funds.”
- William J. Meacham, of Edwardsville, who the ARDC accused of “dishonestly misappropriating $32,083 in settlement funds,” and then lying under oath and creating false documents about what happened to the money.
- John B. Ohle III, of Northfield. Ohle had earlier been disbarred in Louisiana after he was convicted in New York and sentenced to 60 months in prison for allegedly creating “false invoices to generate referral fees on transactions related to a tax shelter that he marketed, sold and implemented.” He was further accused of embezzling client funds and failing to report $6 million in personal income. He was ordered by the court to pay more than $5.5 million in restitution. After Louisiana disbarred Ohle, the Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and similarly disbarred him.
- Baltazar Mendoza, of Chicago, who the ARDC said misappropriated $225,000 in client funds and fabricated “a document purporting to show that one client’s funds had been paid to a mortgage lender.” And,
- Ravi Kanwal, of Denver. He had been disbarred in Colorado for allegedly preparing immigration documents while his law license was suspended there. The Illinois court disbarred him as reciprocal discipline.
Also in September, the Illinois state high court also announced it had suspended 34 other attorneys.
Those suspended included: James T. Zeas, of Silver Spring, Md., suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the court. Zeas was convicted in McHenry County court of a felony charge of child pornography after he was accused of filming a 14-year-old girl while she was changing clothes in a health club locker room. He was sentenced to four years in prison;
Gerald L. Berlin, of Evergreen Park, 3 years and until further order of the court, for misappropriating $79,000 and attempting to “conceal his conduct by not listing certain funds in the accountings he gave” to a client;
Debra V. Levine, of Chicago, 3 years and until further order of the court. The ARDC said she neglected 12 bankruptcy and domestic relations cases and kept $33,678 in “unearned fees;”
Donald F. Franz, of Crystal Lake, 2 years and until further order of the court. The ARDC said he “required his client to sign a $10,000 promissory note as a condition of his continuing representation in a trial,” and later “left voicemail messages for the ARDC, counsel for the ARDC and a client, in which he threatened to inflict physical harm and to kill the Administrator (of the ARDC) and his attorney.” He had been removed from the state’s roll of licensed lawyers in March for failing to register;
Christopher D. Freeman, of Chicago, 2 years and until further order of the court, effective Oct. 13, with suspension stayed after 5 months by a 2-year probation;
Theodore E. Malpass, of Newport Beach, Calif. He was suspended for two years in California for taking $42,000 in fees to represent a client in a bankruptcy without the approval of a bankruptcy court. The Illinois Supreme Court suspended him until he is reinstated in California, plus two years suspension following his reinstatement, with that suspension stayed after 90 days in favor of a three-year probation;
Bruce J. Tackowiak, of Los Angeles, was suspended two years in California, and, in reciprocal discipline, the Illinois Supreme Court also suspended him for two years, effective Oct. 13, staying the suspension after 90 days in favor of a two-year probation;
Leijuana Doss, of Country Club Hills, 18 months and upon making restitution to a client, effective Oct. 13;
Vincent L. Palmieri, of Lake Bluff, 18 months, effective Oct. 13;
Tommie A. Harsley III, of St. Louis, Mo., one year and until further order of the court, with suspension stayed by 2-year conditional probation;
Brian G. Due, of Chicago, one year and until further order of the court;
Michael D. Elkin, of Chicago, one year and until further order of the court;
Allen A. Lefkovitz, of Chicago, one year and until further order of the court;
Steven L. Wessels, of Sacramento, Calif. The Supreme Court of California suspended him, and the Illinois Supreme Court, in reciprocal discipline, also suspended him for one year, effective Oct. 13, staying the suspension after six months in favor of a two-year probation;
Fronse W. Smith Jr., of Mishawaka, Ind., one year and until further order of the court;
Jerold S. Rawson, of Northbrook, 9 months and until he pays restitution, effective Oct. 13;
James W. Eason, of St. Louis, Mo., 6 months and until further of the court, with suspension stayed by a one-year probation from May 23, and until he completes a probation period in Missouri;
Nancy L. Carlson, of Inverness, 6 months, effective Oct. 13;
D.G. Donovan, of Ormond Beach, Fla., 6 months, effective Oct. 13;
Robert M. Kowalski, of Chicago, 6 months, effective Oct. 13;
Karl A. Szymanski, of Rockford, 6 months and until further order of the court;
David P. Cutler, of Chicago, 5 months, effective Oct. 13;
Thomas J. Popovich, of McHenry, 4 months;
Christopher J. McGeehan, of Chicago, 90 days and until he pays restitution to clients, effective Oct. 13;
Edward A. Woller, 3 months and until further order of the court;
Jordan E. Marsh, of Glenview, 90 days, effective Oct. 13;
Ronald F. Michelotti, of Chicago, 90 days and until he pays the ARDC $3,500 in past due registration and late fees;
Mark W. Rigazio, of Morris, 60 days, stayed in its entirety by a one-year probation;
Michael J. Moore, of Chicago, 60 days, effective Oct. 13;
Bruce A. Willey, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 60 days, effective Oct. 13;
Anthony R. Allegra, of Bensenville, 30 days, effective Oct. 13;
Tara L. Grabarczyk, of Monticello, 30 days, effective Oct. 13;
Lennox Emanuel, of West Bloomfield, Mich., 30 days, effective Oct. 13;
Emma L. Knowles, of Chicago, 30 days, effective Oct. 13
The court also censured and reprimanded others, including: Michael G. Barton, of Springfield; Cameron A. Davidson, of Davenport, Iowa; David C. Jenk, of Chicago; Helen N. Kaminski, of Denver; and Michael A. Casey, of Arlington, Texas.