Statement of Charges Allowed by the Illinois Supreme Court
and Imposing Discipline on Consent
Allowed January 12, 2018
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS
In the Matter of:
Supreme Court No. M.R.29051
Commission No. 2017PR00111
STATEMENT OF CHARGES PURSUANT TO SUPREME COURT RULE 762(a)
Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Wendy J. Muchman, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 762(a), states that on the date Jay Presser (hereinafter "Movant") filed a motion requesting his name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys, the Administrator was investigating allegations that Movant has converted at least $132,000 in client and law firm funds from a real estate closing where he was representing a client of the firm by which he was then employed. 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 set forth below:
I. FACTUAL BASIS
Movant's admissions, bank records, records from Chicago Title Insurance, and the testimony of various individuals, would establish the following facts:
1. Movant joined the law firm of Schoenberg, Finkel, Newman & Rosenberg, LLC ("the firm"), on September 27, 2010 as a non-equity partner, and was employed at the firm until August 1, 2017. Movant's area of concentration was real estate matters.
2. During his tenure at the firm, Movant handled real estate matters for many clients of the firm, some of whom dealt with Movant directly. One such client was Best Food Services, Inc. ("Best Food,") a client of the firm's managing partner, Bruce Bell.
Real Estate Closing for Best Food on the 51st Street Property
3. In April 2015, Movant was contacted by Best Food and asked to handle a real estate transaction involving the purchase of property on 51st Street in Chicago. As per the firm's usual procedures, the client was billed when services were rendered, and the firm's invoices were paid directly, (as opposed to the client paying the firm's fees at closing through the title company's disbursement statement). Movant was aware of these billing procedures.
4. The closing on the 51st street property occurred on January 15, 2016, at Chicago Title Insurance. Between the date the firm was hired and March 2016, the client was billed by the firm and had paid the firm's legal fees totaling $18,000.
5. At the closing, funds were disbursed pursuant to a closing statement that Movant prepared. That closing statement itemized deductions to an entity referred to as "Presser Law" of $67,500 and $64,500 to the firm for fees. As a result, at the closing client funds totaling $132,000 were paid to Presser Law and the firm.
6. The closing statement was false, and Movant knew it was false, because Movant knew the client did not owe any money to Presser Law or the firm, let alone the $132,000 that Movant caused to be deducted from the closing proceeds.
7. Movant caused $64,500 from the Best Food closing to be paid to the firm to cover fees owed to the firm by other clients of Movant in order to hide the amount of Movant's outstanding receivables, using those funds for his own personal and business purposes without authority.
8. Movant disbursed the $67,500 to Presser Law and used those funds for his own personal purposes, without authority.
II. CONCLUSIONS OF MISCONDUCT
9. As a result of the conduct described above, Movant has engaged in the following misconduct:
failing to hold property of clients or third persons that is in a lawyer's possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer's own property, by conduct including knowingly misappropriating $132,000 of Best Food's funds from the closing of the 51st Street property, which Movant used, without authority, for his own business and personal purposes, in violation of Rule 1.15(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and
conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, by knowingly preparing a false closing statement and misappropriating over $132,000 in client funds from the 51st Street closing, which Movant used for his own business or personal purposes, without authority, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).
|Wendy J. Muchman
Counsel for Administrator
130 East Randolph Drive, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: (312) 565-2600