A lawyer who held the moniker of The People’s Attorney as the host of an internet radio show, but was convicted four years ago of bank fraud worth $10 million, has been disbarred.
On Sept. 20, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission announced the Illinois Supreme Court had ordered Warren Ballentine III disbarred, along with nine other attorneys licensed to practice in Illinois.
At the same time, the high court suspended 16 attorneys, including a Massachusetts lawyer accused of attempting to extort his firm for $200,000 after he was fired, an Ohio lawyer convicted of wire fraud for his role in an alleged $70 million Ponzi scheme, and an Urbana lawyer who allegedly created fake online profiles and accounts for another lawyer, in the latest round of attorney disciplinary actions from the court.
In disbarring Ballentine, the Illinois Supreme Court noted the conviction, which occurred in late 2014. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, in Chicago, Ballentine allegedly “schemed with others to obtain more than two dozen fraudulent mortgage loans and represented buyers at multiple closings, knowing that they were fraudulently qualified for loans to purchase homes in Chicago and various southern suburbs.”
While Ballentine could have faced 30 years in prison, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly sentenced him to three years probation and ordered him to pay $140,940 in restitution. The judge noted he viewed Ballentine as “a relatively new attorney … basically chasing fees wherever he could find them.” He said Ballentine was “a relatively minimal participant in this.”
Ballentine’s law license had remained suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the court since 2015.
At the same time, the Illinois Supreme Court also disbarred nine other lawyers, including:
James L. Evertts, of Cambell, Calif., who had been disbarred in California for allegedly misappropriating $425,000. The Illinois high court disbarred him as reciprocal discipline;
Walter R. Haybert, of Long Beach, Calif., who had been disbarred in California “following a misdemeanor conviction of contempt of court for violating a protective order requiring him to stay at least 100 feet away from his ex-wife. The Illinois court disbarred him as reciprocal discipline.
Ira M. Keinmuntz, of Chicago, who allegedly spent $247,500 of money owed to clients or lienholders in 24 “separate client matters.”
Donald J. McNeil, of Chicago, who allegedly “misappropriated over $198,000 from his client funds account from funds frozen by court order.”
Corey E. Meyer, of Chicago, who allegedly “neglected” two cases, causing clients to “lose their claims” after the statute of limitations expired. The ARDC further alleged he “made false statements to the two clients, fabricated a court order, and made false representations to the ARDC,” interfering with the disciplinary investigation.
Michael N. Miller, of Homewood, who allegedly “misappropriated at least $223,480 in settlement funds that he was holding in his trust account,” and which should have been distributed to “clients and third-party lienholders.” He had been suspended on an interim basis since June.
Nicholas K. Prittis, of Des Plaines, who was convicted of $100,000 loan fraud, and, in a separate proceeding, convicted of felony theft of between $10,000-$100,000.
Robert J. Schlyer, of Portage, Ind., who was convicted of wire fraud and bank fraud in federal court. He had been suspended on an interim basis since March.
And, David R. Wroblewski, of Phoenix, Az., who allegedly violated a bankruptcy court order when he “disbursed approximately $90,000 from his client funds account.”
In addition to disbarring 10 lawyers, the Illinois Supreme Court also suspended 16, including Michael B. Potere, of West Newton, Mass; Steven C. Scudder, of Centreville, Ohio; and Drew R. Quitschau, of Urbana.
Potere was suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the court. According to published reports, after he was fired by the Dentons LLP law firm, Potere allegedly gleaned sensitive information from an associate’s email, and then threatened to release the information unless the firm paid him $200,000. He was sentenced to five months in prison, with a year of supervised release, according to a published report.
Scudder was suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the court. Scudder was convicted in Ohio on one count of wire fraud. According to published reports, Scudder, purportedly acting on the instructions of a client, William Apostelos, allegedly held himself out as trustee of a land trust, leading 10 people to invest more than $1 million with Apostelos, who was accused by prosecutors of running a Ponzi scheme that took $70 million from hundreds of investors. Scudder was sentenced last June to 14 months in prison, according to a published report.
The court suspended Quitschau for 6 months and until further order of the court. According to the ARDC, Quitschau created a fake Match.com online dating profile for another attorney, and then enrolled the other lawyer without permission in a number of online groups, including the Obesity Action Coalition, Pig International and Diabetic Living. The ARDC alleged Quitschau further created a “false Facebook profile” and used that profile to post “false reviews of that lawyer’s legal abilities on three other websites.”
At the same time, the court also suspended:
Paul G. Prendergast, of Marion, for two years and until further order of the court, for failing to report a felony conviction for aggravated driving under the influence to the ARDC, as required by Illinois Supreme Court rules;
Gordon C. Ring, of Rockford, two years, for allegedly misappropriating “$124,000 in client and third-party funds in two personal injury matters,” among other allegations;
Leo M. Bleiman, of Chicago, for one year and until further order of the court, with the suspension stayed after 60 days by a one-year conditional probation, for allegedly mismanaging $1,569 in client settlement funds;
Babette P. Salus, of Springfield, one year and until further order of the court, for allegedly failing to “deposit security retainers into a client trust account,” not providing a client with a billing statement and update on case, when requested, not responding to the client’s request for a refund, and making “false representations to the ARDC” during the ensuing investigation;
Miguel A. Prieto, of Chicago, one year and until further order of the court, with the suspension stayed after 30 days, pending payment of restitution, followed by a two-year conditional probation, for allegedly neglecting two client matters and practicing law “after failing to comply with minimum continuing legal education requirements and failing to register,” among other allegations;
Matthew R. Wildermuth, of Bolingbrook, 6 months for allegedly neglecting a “client’s breach of contract action” for two years, then charging and collecting “fees for work that he never performed.” The ARDC alleged he also “fabricated an order of default and entry of judgment;”
Ernest E. Wiley Jr., of Bellwood, 6 months and until further order of the court, for allegedly representing clients in three separate legal matters after the ARDC told him he was no longer authorized to practice law for failing to register;
Marlin E. Kirby, of Oak Park, 5 months, for allegedly representing a client in a criminal case while his law license was suspended;
Laura L. Robinson, of Centreville, for 90 days;
Scott T. Kamin, of Chicago, 90 days;
Linda L. Gray, of East Troy, Wis., 60 days; and
Richard T. Wasik, of Chicago, 30 days.