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:
Supreme Court No. M.R.28716
Commission No. 2017PR00039
STATEMENT OF CHARGES
PURSUANT TO SUPREME COURT RULE 762(a)
Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission ("ARDC"), by his attorney, Wendy J. Muchman, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 762(a), states that on the date Dirk Van Beek (hereinafter "Movant") filed a motion requesting that his name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys, the Administrator was investigating allegations relating to Movant's unauthorized filing of weed cutting liens and lien releases for Cook County municipalities that he did not represent. 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 BASIS
Movant's admissions, copies of weed cutting liens and releases and other materials from court files relating to property tax sales, and the testimony of various attorneys who represented the Cook County villages or municipalities involved, would establish the following facts:
1. A weed cutting lien is a mechanism allowed by statute whereby a municipality may provide for the expense of cutting of weeds where the "owners of real estate refuse to do so or neglect to cut them." 65 ILCS 5/11-20-7. The cost or expense to the municipality is placed "upon the real estate, provided a lien is recorded within 60 days of the cost being incurred." 65 ILCS 5/11-20-7. Under the Illinois property tax code, 35 ILCS 200/22-35, the weed cutting lien
is an advancement of municipal funds which allows others to obtain relief from the purchase of property at a tax sale by moving to vacate the tax sale, obtaining the entry of an order that a tax sale was in error, and thereafter, obtain a refund of the monies paid for the property at the tax sale.
2. Between 2010 and 2015, at the request of a tax sale purchaser, Movant recorded at least 43 weed cutting liens against at least 43 different properties located in 16 different villages or municipalities in southern Cook County. Many of the properties in question had been sold at a tax sale.
3. Between 2010 - 2015, after the tax sales relating to the properties had taken place, Movant recorded at least 43 releases of weed cutting lien charges against various properties.
4. At no time did Movant have authority from any of the Cook County municipalities to file the weed cutting liens or releases on their behalf.
5. Movants conduct in recording the weed cutting liens and releases facilitated the filing of petitions for tax sale in error, the subsequent entry of the order of tax sale in error and the reimbursement of monies paid at the tax sale plus interest accrued and is in violation of the property tax code, 35 ILCS 200 et seq. Movant received fees totaling approximately $20,000 for his role in this fraudulent scheme.
6. Movant's conduct was dishonest and he knew it was dishonest because he knew he did not have authority from any of the 16 different south suburban Cook County villages or municipalities to file the weed cutting liens or releases of liens on their behalf.
II. CONCLUSIONS OF MISCONDUCT
7. By reason of the conduct outlined above, Movant has engaged in the following misconduct:
conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, by conduct including filing weed cutting liens and releases of liens without authority of the Cook County villages or municipalities involved, and in violation of the Illinois property tax code 35 ILCS 200, et seq. in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).
Wendy J. Muchman