Cook judge convicted of bank fraud, Wheaton lawyer sentenced for child sex assault among 17 lawyers disciplined by state

By Cook County Record | Jun 1, 2018

The Illinois Supreme Court has disbarred two lawyers, and suspended 13 others, including a Cook County judge convicted of bank fraud and another attorney who pleaded guilty to child sex assault, in its latest round of attorney disciplinary actions, announced in late May.

A Cook County judge convicted by a federal jury of mortgage fraud, and a Wheaton lawyer who pleaded guilty to charges he allegedly sexually assaulted minors, and who was sentenced to 30 years in prison, are each among those on the latest list of Illinois lawyers disciplined by the Illinois Supreme Court for alleged misconduct.

In late May, the state high court announced it had disbarred two lawyers, while suspending 13 others.

Among those disbarred was Benjamin W. Meyer. According to court records, Meyer was listed professionally as practicing law in Wheaton. According to published reports, however, Meyer was listed as a resident of Belvidere in Boone County, and formerly of Rochelle, in Ogle County.

According to published reports, Meyer, then 37, was arrested in September 2017 in Ogle County, where he was charged with several counts of child sexual assault for allegedly having sex with minors. In February, Meyer pleaded guilty to three counts, and was sentenced to 30 years total in prison. Sentencing guidelines require he serve at least 85 percent of the sentence.

According to a news release posted in February 2017 from the DuPage County firm of Mirabella Kincaid Frederick & Mirabella, Meyer at that time was listed by Super Lawyers as a 2017 “Rising Star,” an award given to “the top 2.5 percent of attorneys in Illinois who are 40 years old or younger, or who have been in practice for 10 years or less.”

He had been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 2011.

Also disbarred was attorney Robert G. Riffner, of Schaumburg. According to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, Riffner was accused of misappropriating $216,000 while representing several different clients, and of making “misrepresentations to one client.” The ARDC also said he did not cooperate with the state disciplinary proceedings.

At the same time, the state announced it had suspended an additional 13 other Illinois lawyers, and censured two others.

Among those suspended was Cook County Circuit Judge Jessica Arong O’Brien. O’Brien was suspended on an interim basis, and until further order of the court.

The state Supreme Court had also announced the discipline in late April, in response to O’Brien’s conviction in February on counts of mail fraud and bank fraud for her alleged role in a scheme federal prosecutors said involved using a straw buyer to falsely obtain “loans related to the purchase, maintenance and sale of properties on Chicago’s South Side.” The alleged actions took place at least five years before O’Brien won election to the bench as a Democrat in 2012, prosecutors alleged.

The state Supreme Court has also referred the matter to the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, which could review the matter and possibly refer the case to the Illinois Courts Commission for further action.

O’Brien continues to contest the charges, and has requested the court overturn the verdict and either acquit her, or order a new trial. Prosecutors are scheduled to file replies to O’Brien’s request in July.

O’Brien is scheduled to be sentenced in October, and could face up to 30 years in prison.

The suspension of her law license bars O’Brien from presiding as a judge in court.

Also suspended were:

Scott M. Baldwin, of Metamora, who was suspended for two years and until further order of the court for allegedly misappropriating $26,000 from a disabled person’s estate while acting as a court-appointed guardian;

Steven A. Miner, of Barrington, for two years, effective June 14, for allegedly diverting “to his own use a significant amount of funds belonging to a family friend;

Mark B. Moran, of Aviston, two years and until further order of the court, because he allegedly “improperly entered into a business transaction with clients, failed to inform clients that a judgment order had been entered against them, and failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in an appeal.” He was also ordered to repay $6,250 plus interest at 9 percent per annum, compounded from Sept. 25, 2011;

Elizabeth A. Johnson, of Morris, one year and until further order of the court, for allegedly criminally knowingly possessing cocaine and mishandling the representation of a client in felony traffic matters, while accepting a $1,000 fee;

Robert G. Lohman III, of Des Plaines, one year, effective June 14, for allegedly paying himself $16,000 out of settlement funds a judge had ordered him to hold in a client trust account;

Michael J. Fiandaca, of Chicago, one year, effective June 14, for alleged conflicts of interests in two separate cases, including one in which he represented both parties in a loan transaction, and another in which he borrowed $75,000 from a client without making a required disclosure;

William E. Dicks Jr., of Chicago, 6 months and until further order of the court, for allegedly representing clients after he failed to register with the state, resulting in his name being removed from the Master Roll of Attorneys. The ARDC also alleged he failed to refund $3,000 in unearned fees;

Bernhard Olson II, of Galesburg, 6 months, effective June 14, for allegedly taking $4,850 of “his client’s share of joint property” in a divorce case, by allegedly signing her endorsement on checks received without her knowledge or authorization;

Jeffrey M. McCarthy, of Lockport, 6 months and until further order of the court, with the suspension fully stayed by a two-year conditional probation, for allegedly mishandling a client’s appeal, resulting in his client’s appeal being dismissed and his client being barred from filing a brief related to his ex-wife’s appeal;

Arnim Johnson Jr., of Chicago, 6 months and until further order of the court, with the suspension fully stayed by a two-year conditional probation, for allegedly targeting opposing counsel during a child custody proceeding, using emails and court pleadings to make “inappropriate and intemperate remarks about her, her client and the child that was the subject of the proceedings;”

 John P. Carroll, of Naperville, 6 months, for allegedly intentionally communicating with another attorney’s criminal defendant client “without the knowledge and consent of the defendant’s attorney;”

And,  Deborah C. Cobb, of Collinsville, 60 days.

Attorneys Michelle Gonzalez, of Chicago, and George R. Ripplinger, of Belleville, were censured, the Supreme Court said.

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