Statement of Charges Allowed by the Illinois Supreme Court
and Imposing Discipline on Consent

Allowed September 22, 2017

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

In the Matter of:

SAM SAMEEH ZEGAR,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No. 6206072.

 

Supreme Court No. M.R.28731

Commission No. 2016PR00094

 

STATEMENT OF CHARGES PURSUANT TO
SUPREME COURT RULE 762(a)

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission ("ARDC"), by his attorney Ari Telisman, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 762(a), states that on the date Sam Sameeh Zegar (hereinafter "Movant") filed a motion requesting that his name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys, a fifteen-count complaint was pending against Movant before the Hearing Board charging him with conversion of approximately $116,000 in client funds from twelve different real estate matters and two commercial transactional matters, as well as improperly borrowing $20,000 from a client. Had Movant's conduct been the subject of a hearing, the Administrator would have introduced the evidence described below, and that evidence would have clearly and convincingly established the misconduct indicated below:

I.    FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Movant's admissions, testimony from Movant's former clients and other witnesses, and records from Movant's client fund account would have established the following:

A. Conversion of $49,965.19 in Rumaneh & Oweisi, Inc. real estate transaction

1. Prior to October 10, 2012, Movant and Ihab Oweisi ("Oweisi") and Ahmad Rumaneh ("Rumaneh"), principals of Rumaneh & Oweisi, Inc., agreed that Movant would represent the company in purchasing a piece of commercial real estate in Berwyn. On October 10, 2012, Oweisi and Rumaneh gave Movant a $50,000 check to be used towards the purchase of

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the real estate. The same day, Movant deposited the check in his client fund account at Bank of America. On February 1, 2014, prior to the closing date, Movant drew the balance in that account to $34.81 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $49,965.19 of the funds provided by Rumaneh and Oweisi, without authority.

B. Conversion of $25,485.19 in Farhan real estate transaction

2. Prior to May 1, 2014, Movant agreed to represent Osama Farhan ("Farhan") in purchasing real estate. On May 1, 2014, Farhan gave Movant a $28,000 check to be used towards the purchase of the property. Movant deposited the check in his client fund account at Bank of America that same day. The proposed transaction did not proceed, and on or prior to May 15, 2014, Movant agreed to return Farhan's $28,000 in full. On May 15, 2014, prior to returning any money to Farhan, Movant drew the balance in that account to $2,514.81 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $25,485.19 of Farhan's funds, without authority.

C. Conversion of $4,965.19 in Atieh to Ahmed/Sultana commercial transaction

3. Prior to March 7, 2014, Movant agreed to represent Rawhi Atieh ("Atieh") in selling the assets of Atieh's tobacco shop to Imtiaz Ahmed ("Ahmed") and Talat Sultana ("Sultana"). On March 7, 2014, Ahmed gave Movant a $5,000 check to be used towards the purchase of the assets of Atieh's tobacco shop. The same day, Movant deposited the check in his client fund account at Bank of America. On March 31, 2014, the sale of the assets took place, and the parties agreed that Movant would continue to hold the $5,000 until they obtained a bulk sales stop order release. On April 17, 2014, prior to any disbursement to Atieh, Ahmed, or Sultana, Movant drew the balance in that account to $34.81 by writing checks and making cash

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withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $4,965.19 of the funds, without authority.

D. Improper business transaction with client Atieh

4. While representing Atieh in selling the assets of Atieh's tobacco shop, Movant gained knowledge of Atieh's financial circumstances, including the fact that Atieh often had large amounts of cash on hand. In or about December 2014, Movant asked Atieh for a $20,000 loan and requested that Atieh give him that amount in cash. Atieh agreed, and gave Movant $20,000 in cash. The agreement did not require Movant to provide any collateral or pay any interest or fee for the loan, nor did it provide a date certain by which Movant would repay the loan, or specify any consequence if movant defaulted. The proposed transaction was therefore neither fair nor reasonable to Atieh. Movant also never explained to Atieh that Movant's interest in obtaining the loan under this agreement was in conflict with Atieh's interests, nor did he tell Atieh to seek the advice of independent counsel regarding the loan.

E. Conversion of $9,981.16 in DM Ghandi Corporation to Atieh commercial transaction

5. Prior to January 8, 2015, Movant agreed to represent Atieh in purchasing the assets of a tobacco shop from DM Ghandi Corporation ("DM Ghandi"). At the February 15, 2015, closing on the sale of the tobacco shop's assets, the parties agreed that Movant would hold $10,000 from the purchase price in escrow until DM Ghandi obtained a bulk sales stop order and release. As of that date, Movant had not repaid any of the $20,000 Atieh had lent him. Movant proposed that, instead of Atieh giving Movant $10,000 to hold in escrow, Movant would provide the $10,000 in escrow funds. Movant proposed that this would constitute repayment of half of the $20,000 loan he had obtained from Atieh. Atieh agreed, but Movant never deposited $10,000 toward the purchase of the tobacco shop's assets. On January 29, 2016, prior to any disbursement

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to Atieh or DM Ghandi, Movant's client fund account was closed and he had no other client funds account. As of that date, Movant had drawn the balance in his business and personal bank account to $18.04 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $9,981.16 of the funds, without authority.

F. Conversion of $5,000 in Abdeljaber real estate transaction

6. Prior to September 18, 2014, Movant agreed to represent Murad Abdeljaber ("Abdeljaber") in the sale of his townhouse to Ahmed Al-Sheikhi ("Al-Sheikhi"). On September 18, 2014, Al-Sheikhi gave Movant a $5,000 check to be used towards the purchase of the townhouse. The same day, Movant deposited the check in his client fund account at Bank of America. On September 29, 2014, prior to the closing on the sale of the townhouse, or any disbursement to Abdeljaber or Al-Sheikhi, Movant caused his client fund account to be overdrawn by -$4,939.44, by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using the full $5,000 provided by Al-Sheikhi, without authority.

G. Conversion of $710.19 in Hazeen real estate transaction

7. Prior to April 9, 2014, Movant agreed to represent Mohammed Hazeen ("Hazeen") in the purchase of real estate in Oak Lawn. On April 9, 2014, Hazeen gave Movant a $1,000 check to be used towards the purchase of the Oak Lawn property. The following day, Movant deposited the check in his client fund account at Bank of America. The proposed real estate transaction did not proceed, and on or prior to June 27, 2014, Movant agreed to return Hazeen's $1,000 payment, minus an greed $200 fee for handling the matter. On June 27, 2014, prior to any disbursement to Hazeen, Movant drew the balance in his client fund account to $89.81 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $710.19 of the funds, without authority.

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H. Conversion of $2,912.19 in Elalamy real estate transaction

8. Prior to April 25, 2014, Movant agreed to represent Hilmy Elalamy ("Elalamy") in the purchase of real estate in Hickory Hills from Jose Ramirez ("Ramirez"). Prior to the closing on the property, the parties agreed that Ramirez would pay Elalamy to allow Ramirez to retain possession of the property for a period of time after closing. On April 25, 2014, the closing on the property took place, and the parties agreed that Movant would hold $3,000 of the proceeds of the sale in escrow, with some portion of that amount to be paid to Elalmy toward Ramirez's post-closing possession of the property. The following day, Movant deposited the $3,000 into his client fund account. On July 15, 2014, prior to any disbursement to Ramirez or Elalamy, Movant drew the balance in that account to $87.81 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $2,912.19 of the funds, without authority.

I. Conversion of $4,989.44 in Abuzir real estate transaction

9. Prior to August 25, 2014, Movant agreed to represent Imad Abuzir ("Abuzir") in the sale of real estate in Hickory Hills to Nader Hejaz ("Hejaz"). Prior to the closing on the property, the parties agreed that Abuzir would pay Hejaz to allow Abuzir to remain on the property for a period of time after closing. On August 25, 2014, the closing on the property took place, and the parties agreed that Movant would hold $5,000 of the proceeds of the sale in escrow, with some portion of that eventually to be paid to Hejaz toward Abuzir's post-closing possession of the property. The same day, Movant deposited the $5,000 into his client fund account. On September 15, 2014, prior to any disbursement to Abuzir or Hejaz, Movant drew the balance in that account to $10.56 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $4,989.44 of the funds, without authority.

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J. Conversion of $619.24 in United Holy Land Fund real estate transaction

10. Prior to July 19, 2014, Movant agreed to represent United Holy Land Fund in the purchase of real estate in Burbank. On July 19, 2014, a representative from United Holy Land Fund gave Movant a check for $1,130, $1,000 of which was to be held towards the purchase of the Burbank property, and the remaining $130 to be paid as fees to the City of Burbank. Two days later, Movant deposited the check in his client fund account at Bank of America. On July 23, 2014, the closing on the property took place. On that day, a representative of United Holy Land Fund and Movant agreed that Movant would withhold $370 for payment of his legal fee, and return the remaining $630 to United Holy Land Fund. Movant subsequently gave United Holy Land Fund a $630 check. On August 22, 2014, prior to United Holy Land Fund's negotiation of that check, Movant drew the balance in his client fund account to $10.76 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $619.24 of the funds, without authority.

K. Conversion of $1,989.24 in Aburmishan real estate transaction

11. Prior to July 24, 2014, Movant agreed to represent Mohammed Aburmishan ("Aburmishan") in the purchase of real estate in Burbank from David Juarez ("Juarez"). On July 24, 2014, Aburmishan gave Movant a $2,000 check to be used towards the purchase of the property. Two days later, Movant deposited the check in his client fund account at Bank of America. On August 22, 2014, prior to the closing on the sale of the property, or any disbursement to Aburmishan or Juarez, Movant drew the balance in his client fund account to $10.76 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $1,989.24 of the funds, without authority.

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L. Conversion of $1,912.19 in Ziada real estate transaction

12. Prior to July 10, 2014, Movant agreed to represent Walid Ziada ("Ziada") in the purchase of real estate in Oak Lawn from Rosina Roselli ("Roselli"). Prior to the closing on the property, the parties agreed that Roselli would pay Ziada to allow Roselli to remain on the property for a period of time after closing. On July 10, 2014, the closing on the property took place, and the parties agreed that Movant would hold $2,000 of the proceeds of the sale in escrow, to be paid toward Roselli's post-closing possession of the property. The same day, Movant deposited the $2,000 into his client fund account. On July 15, 2014, prior to any disbursement to Ziada or Roselli, Movant drew the balance in that account to $87.81 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $1,912.19 of the funds, without authority.

M. Conversion of $1,989.24 in Isa real estate transaction

13. Prior to July 26, 2014, Movant agreed to represent Mohammed Isa ("Isa") in the purchase of real estate in Bridgeview. On July 26, 2014, Isa gave Movant a $2,000 check to be used towards the purchase of the Bridgeview property. That same day, Movant deposited the check in his client fund account at Bank of America. The proposed transaction did not proceed, and on or prior to August 22, 2014, Movant agreed to return Isa's $2,000 payment. On August 22, 2014, prior to any disbursement to Isa, Movant drew the balance in his client fund account to $10.76 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $1,989.24 of the funds, without authority.

N. Conversion of $784.19 in Alwawi real estate transaction

14. Prior to September 2, 2014, Movant agreed to represent Mousa Alwawi ("Alwawi") in the purchase of real estate in Frankfort from Sandra and John Kucala ("the

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Kucalas"). Prior to the closing on the property, the parties learned that the homeowner's association ("HOA") for the property was claiming that the Kucalas owed the HOA $794.75 for expenses related to the property. The parties agreed to have Movant hold $794.75 in escrow at the time of closing pending the resolution of the HOA's claim. On September 2, 2014, the closing on the property took place, and the following day Movant deposited $794.75 from the proceeds of the closing into his client fund account. On September 15, 2014, prior to any disbursement to Alwawi, the Kucalas, or the HOA, Movant drew the balance in that account to $10.56 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $784.19 of the funds, without authority.

O. Conversion of $4,989.44 in Ihmoud real estate transaction

15. Prior to September 6, 2014, Movant agreed to represent Mahmoud Ihmoud ("Ihmoud") in the sale of three pieces of real estate in Chicago to Raed Samhan ("Samhan"). On September 6, 2014, Samhan gave Movant three checks totaling $5,000 to be used towards the purchase of the property. Two days later, Movant deposited the checks in his client fund account at Bank of America. On September 15, 2014, prior to the closing on the sale of the properties, or any disbursement to Ihmoud or Samhan, Movant drew the balance in his client fund account to $10.76 by writing checks and making cash withdrawals for his own business and personal expenses, thereby using $4,989.44 of the funds, without authority.

II.    CONCLUSIONS OF MISCONDUCT

16. By reason of the conduct described above, Movant has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. failure to hold property of clients or third persons that is in the lawyer's possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer's own property, by conduct including: (1) failing to hold funds belonging to clients or

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third persons separate from Movant's own property in the real estate transactions involving clients Rumaneh & Oweisi, Inc., Farhan, Abdeljaber, Hazeen, Elalamy, Abuzir, United Holy Land Fund, Aburmishan, Ziada, Alwawi, and Ihmoud, and the commercial transactions involving client Atieh, and (2) converting funds in the real estate transactions involving clients Rumaneh & Oweisi, Inc., Farhan, Abdeljaber, Hazeen, Elalamy, Abuzir, United Holy Land Fund, Aburmishan, Ziada, Alwawi, and Ihmoud, and the commercial transactions involving client Atieh, to Movant's own business or personal use by causing the balance in Movant's client fund account to fall below the amount then belonging to clients or third persons, in violation of Rule 1.15(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  1. entering into a business transaction with a client with terms that are not fair and reasonable to the client, and without informing the client in writing that the client may seek the advice of independent legal counsel on the transaction, by conduct including entering into an agreement with client Atieh to borrow $20,000 cash without any provision for collateral, interest, repayment date, or penalty for default, and without informing Atieh that he may seek the independent advice of counsel, in violation of Rule 1.8(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  2. using information relating to the representation of a client to the disadvantage of the client, by conduct including using information that Atieh had large amounts of cash on hand to seek a loan from Atieh, in violation of Rule 1.8(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

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  1. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, by conduct including knowingly converting funds in the real estate transactions involving clients Rumaneh & Oweisi, Inc., Farhan, Abdeljaber, Hazeen, Elalamy, Abuzir, United Holy Land Fund, Aburmishan, Ziada, Alwawi, and Ihmoud, and the commercial transactions involving client Atieh, to Movant's own business or personal use, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

Ari Telisman
Counsel for Administrator
130 East Randolph Drive, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: (312) 565-2600
atelisman@iardc.org

Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:  /s/Ari Telisman
           Ari Telisman