BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD

OF THE

ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION

AND

DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matters of:

 

STANLEY E. NIEW,                                               

Attorney No. 2053721,

 

and

                                                                 

ANTHONY ALLEGRA,                                          

Attorney No. 6295759,

 

Respondents.                                           

Commission No. 2016PR00069

 

 

Commission No. 2016PR00070

 

FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Lea S. Gutierrez, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), complains of Respondents, Stanley E. Niew ("Respondent Niew"), who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on November 27, 1972, and Anthony Allegra ("Respondent Allegra"), who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on November 6, 2008, and alleges that Respondents have engaged in the following conduct, which subjects them to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770:

FACTS COMMON TO ALL COUNTS

1. At all times alleged in this complaint, Supreme Court Rule 764(b) provided that an attorney who was disbarred or suspended for six months or more shall not maintain a presence or occupy an office where the practice of law is conducted. Supreme Court Rule 764 also placed a duty upon all attorneys affiliated with the disciplined attorney as partner or associate to take reasonable action necessary to insure that the disciplined attorney complied with the provision of Supreme Court Rule 764(b).

2. On December 17, 2012, the Administrator filed a complaint before the Hearing Board against Kathleen Niew ("Ms. Niew"), Respondent Niew's wife, alleging her mishandling of approximately $2.34 million belonging to a client she was representing in a real estate transaction. The matter was docket In re Niew, No. 2012PR00162.

3. In January 2013, Respondent Allegra became an associate at Niew Legal Partners, P.C., which was located at 1000 Jorie Boulevard, Suite 206 in Oakbrook. Respondent Niew and Ms. Niew were partners at Niew Legal Partners, and Respondent Allegra and attorney Ryan Liska ("Liska") were associates at Niew Legal Partners. Heather Tichy ("Tichy") was a paralegal at Niew Legal Partners and Bernadette Ibaska ("Ibaska") was the secretary at Niew Legal Partners. In March 2013, Liska left Niew Legal Partners.

4. On March 13, 2013, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 774, the Administrator filed a petition for rule to show cause why Ms. Niew should not be suspended from the practice of law on an interim basis pending the resolution of her disciplinary charges. On March 21, 2013, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a rule requiring Ms. Niew to show cause in writing why she should not be suspended on an interim basis, effective immediately and until further order of the Court. Ms. Niew did not answer the rule to show cause.

5. On May 7, 2013, the Illinois Supreme Court entered an order enforcing the rule to show cause, and suspending Respondent from the practice of law effective that same date and until further order of the Court.

6. Later in May 2013, Respondent Niew learned that the Court had suspended Ms. Niew from the practice of law on an interim basis.

7. In April 2013, Niew Legal Partners became the Law Offices of Stanley Niew. Between May 2013 and June 2014, the Law Offices of Stanley Niew remained at the same location as Niew Legal Partners. Respondent Niew, Ms. Niew, Respondent Allegra, Tichy, and Ibaska remained employees at the Law Offices of Stanley Niew. For this period of 14 months, Ms. Niew maintained a presence at 1000 Jorie Boulevard, Suite 206 in Oakbrook. During that period of time, Ms. Niew met with clients of the Law Offices of Stanley Niew and worked with Respondent Niew's associate, Anthony Allegra. Ms. Niew also used the Law Offices of Stanley Niew's receptionist, Bernadette Ibaska, as well as the firm's paralegal, Heather Tichy. As a result of her continued presence at the same law office where she was previously employed at Niew Legal Partners, her work with Respondent Allegra and his staff, and her previous association with Respondent Niew at Niew Legal Partners, Respondent Niew and Ms. Niew remained associated-in-fact, thereby obliging Respondent Niew to comply with the requirements of Supreme Court Rule 764.

8. On June 27, 2013, a default hearing was held in relation to Commission number 2012PR00162, after which the Hearing Board issued a report and recommendation recommending that Ms. Niew be disbarred.

9. On November 20, 2013, the Court entered an order disbarring Ms. Niew as a result of her mishandling of her client's $2.34 million.

10. Shortly after November 20, 2013, Respondent Niew learned that Ms. Niew had been disbarred.

11. In late November 2013, Respondent Allegra learned that Ms. Niew had been disbarred.

COUNT I
(Allowing Kathleen Niew, a disciplined attorney, to maintain a presence in a law office and assisting her in the unauthorized practice of law)

The Administrator alleges that Respondent Niew has engaged in the following conduct:

12.  Between November 20, 2013, the date that the Court entered an order disbarring Ms. Niew, through late May or early June 2014, Respondent Niew allowed Ms. Niew to maintain a presence at his law office located at 1000 Jorie Boulevard, Suite 206 in Oakbrook.

13. Between November 20, 2013 and about early June 2014, Ms. Niew maintained an office in the Jorie Boulevard suite, and she was physically present in the office four to five times per week. During that same period of time Respondent Niew observed Ms. Niew talking on the office telephone, writing letters on the office computer, and conducting meetings. Although Respondent Niew knew that his wife had been disbarred, he encouraged her to deposit money into the firm's client funds account that he knew or should have known was client money for legal services.

14. Between November 20, 2013 and June 2014, Ms. Niew participated in meetings with legal clients at least 8 times, including:

    Meeting Date

    Calendar Description

    Others Present

    December 18, 2013

    Peter Vlahos and Harry Haralampopoulous here/KIN and ARA

    Respondent Allegra

    January 8, 2014

    Meeting w/Sam Pancotto Jr. - Will signing/ARA/KIN - Sam Pancotto's - Oak Brook

    Respondent Allegra

    January 31, 2014

    Harry H. & Peter V./Meeting w/KIN - Our Office

     

    March 14, 2014

    Bester, Robert/Meeting w-Indu to list Woodridge Home for Sale/KIN - Bester's Home

     

    March 18, 2014

    ATMORE, BETTY/Review Estate Plan/ARA/KIN - Our Office - Betty's phone #: (847) 394-9480

    Respondent Allegra

    March 28, 2014

    ARNO REICHEL/Meeting/KIN

     

    April 3, 2014

    REICHEL, ARNO & KEN/Meeting w/KIN - **KIN gave Arno & Ken each their original Estate Plan Books - Our Office

     

    May 13, 2014

    Arno Reichel/Meeting and to sign documents w/KIN/ARA - Our Office

    Respondent Allegra

         

15. Between December 20, 2013 and about early June 2014, Ms. Niew communicated with at least two legal clients, John Vlahos ("Vlahos") and Arno Reichel ("Reichel"), via the law firm email regarding Vlahos' guardianship matter and Reichel's estate planning matters, and she received at least two facsimiles on the law firm fax machine regarding those legal matters.

16. On December 10, 2013, Kelly Vos ("Vos"), an accountant who had joined Respondent Niew's office in October 2013, sent Tichy an email, which Tichy forwarded to Respondent Niew that same date. The email from Vos stated:

Actually you need to hire someone else. I don't feel comfortable with someone who has been disbarred for fraud and still is making contracts for new business. She should be home and I don't believe some of the personal expenses should be paid by the company.

17. For six months after receiving the email that Vos sent to Tichy, described in paragraph 16, above, Respondent Niew did not take any action to insure that Ms. Niew did not maintain a presence in the Jorie Boulevard law office, and she continued to do so.

18. On May 8, 2014, the Administrator docketed an investigation against Respondent Niew based on concerns that he may have been assisting Ms. Niew in the unauthorized practice of law. On May 13, 2014, the Administrator sent Respondent Niew a letter asking him to address the Administrator's concerns regarding Ms. Niew's continued presence in the Jorie Boulevard law office and concerns that Ms. Niew had been meeting with clients. Respondent Niew received the letter shortly thereafter.

19. After receiving the Administrator's May 8, 2014 letter, in June 2014, Respondent Niew took actions to insure that Ms. Niew did not maintain a physical presence in the Jorie Boulevard law office.

20. On June 18, 2014 Ms. Tichy sent Respondent Niew the following an email stating:

I am emailing you because I just took a phone call from a woman named Vena Gandhi at approximately 8:59am this morning.

Vena said that she had been texting with Kathleen Niew around 3-4pm yesterday afternoon and that KIN told her that she would be giving me (HMT) books approx. 10 books regarding retirement planning called The Retirement Miracle by Patrick Kelley and another called Tax Free Retirement and that Vena could come into our office today and pick-up the books…

I am not comfortable with KIN regularly giving out my name and telling people that they can/should call your office and to ask for me to schedule appointments with ARA and/or pick-up KIN's books/docs from me.

22. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent Niew has engaged in the following misconduct:

a. conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, by conduct including, but not limited to, failing to take reasonable action necessary to insure that Ms. Niew did not maintain a presence in an office where the practice of law was conducted after the Illinois Supreme Court entered an order disbarring her as required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 764, and allowing her to conduct meetings and to use the law firm email and fax machine in an office where the practice of law is conducted after her disbarment, by disregarding the Court's order and processes in In re Niew, M.R. 26310, 2012PR000162 (November 20, 2013), and by failing to take action after receiving Vos' email, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

b. conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice by conduct including, but not limited to, failing to file a certification with the Clerk of the Supreme Court in In re Niew, M.R. 26310, 2012PR000162 (November 20, 2013) setting forth the actions taken to insure compliance with Supreme Court Rule 764(b), in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

COUNT II
(Assisting Kathleen Niew in the unauthorized practice of law - John Vlahos)

The Administrator alleges that Respondent Allegra has engaged in the following misconduct:

23. Between November 2013 through May 2014, Respondent Allegra, an affiliated attorney at the Law Offices of Stanley Niew, participated in meetings between Ms. Niew and at least six legal clients, including Harry Haralampopolous, Maciej Wilhelm, Peter Vhalos, Julia and Michael Maloney, and John Hryn. Respondent Allegra accepted instructions from Ms. Niew regarding legal work to be completed by Respondent Allegra on behalf of at least one client, Arno Reichel.

24. On or about November 19, 2013, while Ms. Niew was suspended on an interim basis until further order of the Court, Peter Vlahos sent a facsimile to Ms. Niew via the law firm facsimile machine. The facsimile consisted of Peter Vlahos' handwritten cover letter addressed to Kathleen Niew, and a copy of a letter to John Vlahos dated October 4, 2013 from the Volunteer Coordinator at the DuPage County Circuit Court related to In re the Estate of Penelope Vlahos, a disabled person, case number 2011P1089. The October 4, 2013 letter stated that John Vlahos was the court appointed guardian of Penelope Vlahos, and that his annual accounting and report on the condition of the Penelope Vlahos had been scheduled for hearing on January 2, 2014.

25. All calendar events on the law firm's Outlook Calendar that refer to the Penelope Vlahos matter refer to Ms. Niew and do not mention Anthony Allegra. Respondent Niew had access to the office outlook calendar, and during the time that Ms. Niew was not authorized to practice law due to her interim suspension or disbarment, the following entries were made in the law firm Outlook Calendar related to the Penelope Vlahos matter:

    Date

    Calendar Event Description

    December 2, 2013

    Reminder: Penelope Vlahos/Guardianship Case/KIN call Peter Vlahos - 2nd Annual Report & Accounting/KIN -GRL says if Judge gets Report 10 Days ahead of TODAY won't have to attend. (By 12/20/13)

    December 2, 2013

    Penelope Vlahos/Guardianship Case/KIN call Peter Vlahos - 2nd Annual Report & Accounting - Has John V. sent back signed paper/KIN

    December 16, 2013

    ALREADY SUBMITTED TO COURT 12/3/13 - PENELOPE VLAHOS/Guardianship Case/Presentation of 2nd Annual Report & Accounting/KIN - GRL says if Judge gets Report 10 Days ahead of TODAY won't have to attend. (By 12/20/13)

    January 2, 2014

    PENELOPE VLAHOS/Guardianship Case/Presentation of 2nd Annual Report & Accounting/KIN - GRL says if Judge gets Report 10 Days ahead of TODAY won't have to attend. - DuPage County/Room 2009

26. On December 3, 2013, Respondent Allegra filed an annual report and account on behalf of John Vlahos in relation to the estate of Penelope Vlahos, case number 2011P1089.

27. On February 20, 2014, Heather Tichy ("Tichy"), who was employed at the Law Offices of Stanley Niew as a paralegal, sent an email addressed to both Respondent Allegra and Ms. Niew. The email attached documents related to the estate of Penelope Vlahos. Tichy's email to Respondent Allegra and Ms. Niew stated:

Anthony & Kathleen,

Per Anthony's request attached are the guardianship discharge papers to send to Peter Vlahos for John Vlahos's signature.

Anthony said he or Kathleen would email to Peter. Peter's email address I have is: [redacted].

Please let me know if you have any issues. Thank you.

28. On or about February 25, 2014, John Vlahos executed documents related to his discharge as independent representative of the estate of Penelope Vlahos. Ms. Niew notarized the documents, which Respondent Allegra filed in court in case number 2011P1089.

29. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent Allegra has engaged in the following misconduct:

a. assisting another in practicing law in a jurisdiction where doing so violates the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, by conduct including, but not limited to, allowing Ms. Niew to maintain a presence in an office where the practice of law was conducted after her suspension and disbarment, participating in meetings with Ms. Niew and Harry Haralampopolous, Maciej Wilhelm, Peter Vhalos, Julia and Michael Maloney, and John Hryn about their respective legal matters, and failing to take action necessary as an affiliated attorney to prevent Ms. Niew from communicating with Peter Vlahos regarding a case number 2011P1089, in violation of Rule 5.5(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

b. violating or attempting to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, or knowingly assisting or inducing another to do so, by conduct including, but not limited to, allowing Kathleen Niew to maintain an office and conduct meetings in an office where the practice of law is conducted after her suspension and disbarment, and allowing her to communicate with Peter Vlahos regarding 2011P1089, in violation of Rule 8.4(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

c. conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, by conduct including, but not limited to, failing to take reasonable action necessary to insure that Ms. Niew did not maintain a presence in an office where the practice of law was conducted after the Illinois Supreme Court entered an order disbarring her as required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 764, and by disregarding the Court's order and processes in In re Niew, M.R. 26310, 2012PR000162 (November 20, 2013), in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

d. failing to file a certification with the Clerk of the Supreme Court setting forth the actions taken to insure compliance with Supreme Court Rule 764(b), in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

COUNT III
(Assisting Kathleen Niew in the unauthorized practice of law - Arno Reichel)

The Administrator alleges that Respondent Allegra has engaged in the following misconduct:

30. On March 28, 2014 and April 3, 2014, while Ms. Niew was disbarred, Ms. Niew discussed with Arno Reichel ("Reichel") changes that Reichel wanted made to his will and his revocable trust. Respondent Allegra did not participate in those meetings with Reichel. Ms. Niew communicated the changes that Reichel wanted to both documents to Respondent Allegra, who then made the changes.

31. At no time before making the changes to Reichel's will and revocable trust did Allegra meet or communicate with Reichel.

32. On or about May 13, 2014, Reichel executed the will and trust documents. After Reichel executed the documents, Respondent Allegra signed the documents as one of the witnesses, and Ms. Niew notarized the signatures to the will and trust documents.

33. Shortly after the will and trust documents were executed, Respondent Allegra put the original documents on Tichy's desk, and instructed Tichy to scan the documents and then place them on Ms. Niew's desk for her to handle.

34. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent Allegra has engaged in the following misconduct:

a. assisting another in practicing law in a jurisdiction where doing so violates the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, by conduct including, but not limited to, allowing Ms. Niew to maintain a presence in an office where the practice of law was conducted after her suspension and disbarment, and taking instruction from Ms. Niew about changes to Arno Reichel's will and trust without communicating with Arno Reichel himself, and then giving the revised legal documents back to Ms. Niew, in violation of Rule 5.5(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

b. violating or attempting to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, or knowingly assisting or inducing another to do so, by conduct including, but not limited to, allowing Kathleen Niew to maintain a presence in an office where the practice of law is conducted after her suspension and disbarment, and allowing her to communicate with Arno Reichel regarding a legal matter, in violation of Rule 8.4(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

c. conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, by conduct including, but not limited to, failing to take reasonable action necessary as an affiliated attorney to insure that Ms. Niew did not maintain a presence in an office where the practice of law was conducted after the Illinois Supreme Court entered an order disbarring her as required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 764, and by disregarding the Court's order and processes in In re Niew, M.R. 26310, 2012PR000162 (November 20, 2013), in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

WHEREFORE, the Administrator requests that this matter be assigned to a panel of the Hearing Board, that a hearing be held, and that the panel make findings of fact, conclusions of fact and law, and a recommendation for such discipline as is warranted.

Lea S. Gutierrez- LGutierrez@iardc.org
Wendy J. Muchman - Wmuchman@iardc.org
Counsel for the Administrator
130 East Randolph Drive, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: (312) 565-2600

Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:  Lea S. Gutierrez