IN THE SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

In the Matter of:

BALTAZAR MENDOZA,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No. 6275512..

 

Supreme Court No. M.R.28768

Commission No. 2017PR00004

 

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

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Emily A. Adams, states that on the date Baltazar Mendoza ("Movant") filed a motion to strike his name from the Roll of Attorneys, the Administrator was investigating allegations that Movant converted more than $243,000 in client funds to his own business or personal use, and that he neglected a clientís matter and made misrepresentations to the client regarding the status of that matter. Had Movantís 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 conclusions of misconduct set forth below:

  1. SUMMARY OF MISCONDUCT

A. Conversion of $203,782.36 and misrepresentations in relation to Jesus Perez

1. In or about December 2015, Movant agreed to represent Jesus Perez ("Perez") in efforts to redeem property in Cicero that Perez had previously owned, but which had been subject to a judgment of foreclosure in favor of the lender Self Help Federal Credit Union ("Self Help"), as successor in interest to Second Federal Savings Loan Association ("Second Federal"). Perez paid Movant a flat fee of $1,500 for the representation.

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2. On or about January 4, 2016, Perez gave Movant $185,782.36 to hold in connection with the attempt to redeem the Cicero property. On that day, Movant deposited Perezís funds into his client trust account at US Bank. On January 7, 2016, prior to any disbursement to Self Help for the purpose of redeeming the Laramie property on Perezís behalf, and without authority, Movant drew the balance in that account to $11.33, by making electronic transfers and other payments, thereby using $185,771.03 of Perezís funds for his own business or personal purposes. Between April 27, 2016 and May 5, 2016, Perez gave Movant an additional $18,000 in checks, because Movant had informed Perez that he needed more money to redeem the Cicero property. Movant cashed these checks and used the full $18,000 for his own business or personal expenses, thereby using an additional $18,000 of Perezís funds without authority. Movantís use of Perezís funds constitutes conversion. Movant later overdrew his client trust account by -$1,020.96.

3. As of July 2016, Movant had not paid any funds towards the redemption of the Cicero property. Around that time, in response to Perezís requests for information, Movant fraudulently created and transmitted to Perez a document entitled "Satisfaction of Mortgage," purportedly to show that Perez had paid $203,000 to Second Federal. Movant affixed the signature of Norma P. Ortiz, a purported representative of Second Federal to the document.

4. On or about August 2, 2016, Self Help informed Movant that Perez could no longer redeem the Cicero property, because his right of redemption had expired. On September 9, 2016, Movant spoke to Perez by telephone. At that time, Movant falsely told Perez that he had tendered the funds to Self Help and that Perez would be receiving the deed in the mail.

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B. Conversion of $30,661.97 in relation to Faviola Camarena

5. Movant represented Faviola Camarena ("Camarena") in a personal injury matter relating to a March 23, 2013 incident on a one-third contingent fee basis. In July 2014, Camarena agreed to accept a settlement in the amount of $46,000, from which Movant had a contractual claim to $15,333.33 as his fee and Camarena and third party lienholders were entitled to the remaining $30,666.67. On July 17, 2014, Movant deposited the $46,000 settlement into his client trust account. On August 18, 2014, prior to any disbursement to Camarena or her lienholders, Movant drew the balance in that account to $4.70, by making electronic transfers and other payments, thereby using $30,661.97 of Camarenaís proceeds for his own business or personal use, without authority. Movantís use of those funds constitutes conversion.

C. Conversion of $8,661.92 in relation to Rosa Camarena

6. Movant represented Rosa Camarena ("Camarena") in a personal injury matter relating to a March 23, 2013 incident on a one-third contingent fee basis. In July 2014, Camarena agreed to accept a settlement in the amount of $13,000, from which Movant had a contractual claim to $4,333.33 in fees, and Camarena and other third party lienholders were entitled to the remaining $8,666.67. On November 10, 2014, Movant deposited the $13,000 settlement check into his client trust account. On November 12, 2014, prior to distributing any portion of the settlement proceeds to Camarena or other third party lienholders, Movant drew the balance in that account to $4.75 by making electronic transfers and other payments, thereby using $8,661.92 of Camarenaís proceeds for his own business or personal use, without authority. Movantís use of those funds constitutes conversion

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  1. CONCLUSIONS OF MISCONDUCT

7. By reason of the conduct set forth above, Movant has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, by conduct including failing to redeem the Cicero property on Perezís behalf, or to take any other action to advance Perezís interests in the property, in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  2. failing to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of a matter, by conduct including failing to inform Perez that as a result of Movantís actions, Perez had lost the right to redeem the Cicero property, in violation of Rule 1.4(a)(3) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  3. failing to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation, by conduct including failing to inform Perez that as a result of Movantís actions, Perez had lost the right to redeem the Cicero property, in violation of Rule 1.4(b) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  4. failing to hold property of a client or third person that is in the lawyerís possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyerís own property, by conduct including conversion of funds belonging to Perez, Faviola, and Rosa for his own business or personal use, by causing the balance in Movantís trust 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);

  5. failing to promptly deliver to the client any funds the client is entitled to receive, by conduct including failing to return to tender settlement proceeds to Faviola and Rosa Camarena, in violation of Rule 1.15(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

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  1. engaging in conduct involving knowing dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, by conduct including misrepresenting to Perez that he had tendered the redemption funds to the bank and that the deed was forthcoming and tendering a false document to Perez to further perpetuate the belief that Movant had redeemed the Cicero property on Perezís behalf, and knowingly converting funds belonging to Perez, and Faviola and Rosa Camarena to his own use, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

Emily A. Adams
Counsel for Administrator
130 East Randolph Drive, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: 312-565-2600
Email:
eadams@iardc.org

Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:  /s/Emily A. Adams
          
Emily A. Adams