BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
OF THE
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
AND
DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

MARK ANTON PELLEGRINO,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No. 6209715.

 

Commission No.  07 CH 90

FILED -  September 30, 2008

JOINT STIPULATION OF FACTS
AND RECOMMENDATION FOR DISCIPLINE

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney Athena T. Taite, and Respondent Mark Anton Pellegrino, by his attorney Richard H. Donohue, stipulate that the following facts could be proven by clear and convincing evidence at a hearing:

I.    JOINT STIPULATION OF FACTS

1. Between January 2001 and October 2005, Respondent was an associate attorney at the law firm of Anderson Rasor & Partners, LLP. About August 2005, Respondent obtained economy class airline reservations on www.orbitz.com for travel between Chicago, Illinois, and Santa Ana, California, for a deposition in relation to an Anderson client. The deposition was scheduled and proceeded on Monday, August 29, 2005.

2. Respondent's airline reservations had him traveling to Santa Ana on United Airlines flight no. 473 on Sunday, August 28, 2005, and returning to Chicago on American Airlines flight no. 1642 on Monday, August 29, 2005. The total cost for the round trip airline reservations was $625.89.

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3. On August 28, 2005, when Respondent arrived at Chicago O'Hare International Airport for his flight to Santa Ana, Respondent used United's self-service kiosk to check-in for his flight. At the kiosk, he inadvertently changed his reservation from economy class to first class and had to pay an additional $260.02. Respondent boarded his flight and traveled to Santa Ana, California.

4. On August 29, 2005, sometime after completing the deposition, Respondent arrived at Santa Ana John Wayne Airport for his flight to Chicago. Respondent used American's self-service kiosk to check-in for his flight, received an economy class boarding pass as originally ticketed, and returned to Chicago.

5. Shortly after returning to Chicago, Respondent completed an Anderson travel reimbursement form, seeking reimbursement for his travel expenses. Respondent's form showed that he spent $625.89 for airfare on August 28, 2005, and $260.02 for airfare on August 29, 2005. With the form, Respondent submitted his itinerary from www.orbitz.com, showing a total cost of $625.89 for round trip travel between Santa Ana and Chicago. Respondent also submitted a receipt from United, showing an upsell on the flight to Santa Ana in the amount of $260.02.

6. Respondent knew or reasonably should have known that his travel reimbursement form was false, because he did not spend $260.02 for airfare on August 29, 2005.

7. On September 16, 2005, Mary Lynn Lynch, an Anderson employee in its accounting department, asked Respondent to explain the airfare expenses on his travel reimbursement form. Respondent responded to Lynch via e-mail as follows:

Flight cancelled/rescheduled for next morning. If I wanted to get to California that evening so that I did not miss deposition early next day, then I had to buy upgrade on only other available flight.

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8. On September 20, 2005, Denise Morask, an Anderson employee in its accounting department, asked Respondent to provide documentation on the cancelled flight.

9. On September 21, 2005, Respondent responded to Morask via e-mail as follows:

I have no such paperwork. Because there were no coach seats available on the alternate flight, my ticket was not transferable. They had me purchase an upgrade on the cancelled flight at the ticket counter and then issued me a boarding pass for an upgraded seat on the alternate flight. There was no receipt for the alternate flight. My concern at the time was documenting the transaction but getting to my destination. If you can't get reimbursement from MIIX, then I will eat the ticket price for the upgrade.

10. Respondent knew that his statements to Lynch and Morask were false, because his flight to Santa Ana was not cancelled/rescheduled, Respondent did not have to buy an upgrade to get to California for the deposition, and Respondent did not take an alternate flight to California.

II.    MISCONDUCT

11. By reason of the conduct outlined above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(4) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and

  2. conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 770.

III.    FACTORS IN MITIGATION

12. Respondent has been admitted to practice law in Illinois since November 5, 1992, and has never been previously disciplined.

13. Shortly after Respondent's false statements to Anderson's accounting department, William C. Anderson, III, and R. Dennis Rasor, two of the partners at Anderson Rasor, met with Respondent about his travel reimbursement form. Respondent readily admitted that he made

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false statements in requesting reimbursement. Anderson Rasor & Partners then terminated Respondent, effective October 24, 2005.

14. If this matter proceeded to hearing, Respondent would have presented the testimony of various attorneys, including partners at Anderson Rasor, who would testify to his excellent reputation for truth and veracity, notwithstanding this isolated incident of misconduct.

IV.    RECOMMENDATION FOR DISCIPLINE

15. The parties hereby waive the twenty-one day period for filing exceptions and request that the Hearing Board administer a reprimand to Respondent at the conclusion of the hearing in this matter pursuant to Commission Rule 282.

16. The recommendation is consistent with the sanction in In re Mandel, M.R. 19028, 03 RC 1513 (November 17, 2003).

17. In In re Mandel, the Court imposed reciprocal discipline and reprimanded an attorney for engaging in travel expense fraud. The attorney used his firm's credit card to purchase two round trip airline tickets, used of each ticket for business, and applied the unused portion of one ticket toward the purchase of a personal vacation to Palm Beach, Florida. The attorney also purchased two round trip tickets to the same destination, using his personal credit card for the first ticket and using frequent flyer miles for the second ticket. Respondent returned the first ticket for a credit of $1,050 and used the second ticket for business travel. The attorney then submitted an expense memorandum, listing an expense of $1,050 for airfare. The law firm charged the client for the airfare.

18. In the present matter, Respondent also misrepresented the nature of his travel expenses. A reprimand is thus appropriate.

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WHEREFORE, the Administrator and Respondent jointly request that the Hearing Board enter an order reprimanding Respondent as a result of his misconduct.

 

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:  Athena T. Taite
Counsel for the Administrator
130 E. Randolph Dr., Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: 312-565-2600

Respectfully submitted,

Mark Anton Pellegrino
Attorney-Respondent


By:  Richard H. Donohue
Counsel for Respondent
140 S. Dearborn St., Suite 800
Chicago, Illinois 60603
Telephone: 312-422-0900

BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
OF THE
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
AND
DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

MARK ANTON PELLEGRINO,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No. 6209715.

 

Commission No.  07 CH 90

FILED -  September 30, 2008

REPRIMAND

Based upon the agreement and stipulation of the parties, the panel of the Hearing Board hereby makes findings and reprimands you, Mark Anton Pellegrino, as follows:

1. You are being reprimanded for conduct involving dishonesty and misrepresentation in connection with a request for reimbursement for travel expenses related to a former client. As an associate at Anderson Rasor & Partners, LLP, you twice made misrepresentations to your firm to obtain reimbursement for an upsell or acceptance of an offer to upgrade from economy to first class from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Ana, California. You falsely asserted that your original flight was cancelled or rescheduled, and that you had to purchase an upgrade on an alternate flight.

2. Attorneys have an obligation to avoid conduct that could bring the legal profession into disrepute. An attorney's lapse in character and integrity undermines the public's confidence in the legal profession and the justice system.

3. Your conduct as described in this Reprimand and in the Stipulation of Facts was improper. You have violated Rule 8.4(a)(4) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 770. You have engaged in conduct involving dishonesty and misrepresentation in connection with your request for reimbursement for travel expenses. You

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are therefore reprimanded not to repeat the conduct that has resulted in this imposition of discipline.

4. You are further advised that while this reprimand is not formally presented to the Supreme Court, it is not to be taken lightly. This reprimand is a matter of public record and is on file with the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission and may be admitted into evidence in subsequent disciplinary proceedings against you.

WHEREFORE, Mark Anton Pellegrino, you are hereby REPRIMANDED. You are admonished not to engage in such misconduct in the future and to strictly comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Date: September 30, 2008 Joseph A. Bartholomew,
Chair of the Hearing Panel

Philip Gerard Brinckerhoff,
Member of the Hearing Panel

Eddie Sanders, Jr.,
Member of the Hearing Panel