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

In the Matter of:

TED MAURICE WORD,

Attorney-Respondent,

No. 6244927.

 

Commission No.  09 CH 84

FILED -  August 21, 2009

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, James A. Doppke, Jr., pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), complains of Ted Maurice Word, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on May 7, 1998, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute:

(Failure to consult with Jessie Mae Hall and falsely claiming to represent Hall)

1. In or about August 2005, Respondent was contacted by a person who identified herself as "Samantha Hall" ("Samantha"). "Samantha" requested that Respondent assist her in connection with the proposed sale of real estate located in Chicago at 4857 W. Race ("the Race property") and 4900 W. Ferdinand ("the Ferdinand property"). The proposed buyer of the properties was I Return, Inc., an Illinois business entity represented by attorney Stephen D. Richek.

2. In or about August 2005, "Samantha" told Respondent that Jessie Mae Hall, the legal and equitable owner of the Race and Ferdinand properties, was her mother. "Samantha" further stated that Jessie Mae Hall resided in Indiana, and that her mobility was limited.

3. Following his conversations with "Samantha" as described in paragraphs one and two, above, but without contacting Jessie Mae Hall, Respondent agreed to represent Jessie Mae Hall in connection with the proposed sales of the Race and Ferdinand properties.

4. In or about August 2005, "Samantha" told Respondent that she had already negotiated a contract for the sale of both the Race and Ferdinand properties to I Return, Inc., and that the closing was scheduled to take place on September 7, 2005. Shortly thereafter, Respondent and Richek rescheduled the closing to take place on October 3, 2005.

5. At no time between August 2005 (the date of his first conversation with "Samantha") and October 3, 2005 (the date the transactions relating to the Race and Ferdinand properties closed) did Respondent meet "Samantha," or Jessie Mae Hall, in person.

6. At no time between August 2005 and October 3, 2005 did Respondent attempt to contact Jessie Mae Hall, who at all times alleged in this complaint resided at the Race property.

7. Jessie Mae Hall did not have a daughter named "Samantha Hall," and the person that contacted Respondent concerning the Race and Ferdinand properties was using a false or stolen identity. At no time had Jessie Mae Hall intended to sell the Race or Ferdinand properties, and at no time had she granted "Samantha," or anyone else, authority to take any action on her behalf.

8. At no time did Respondent receive a copy of any document indicating that "Samantha" had authority to engage in transactions relating to the Race or Ferdinand properties.

9. At no time did Respondent receive or review any document tending to indicate that "Samantha" was in the chain of title for the Race or Ferdinand properties, or that she otherwise had any present, future, or contingent interest in the properties.

10. At no time did Respondent receive a copy of any document indicating that he had authority to engage in transactions relating to the Race or Ferdinand properties on behalf of "Samantha" or Jessie Mae Hall.

11. As of the date of closing, Respondent knew, or upon reasonable inquiry would have discovered, that neither he nor "Samantha" had authority to engage in transactions relating to the Race or Ferdinand properties, or he acted with reckless disregard as to his and "Samantha's" authority to engage in such transactions.

12. Between August 2005 and October 3, 2005, Respondent prepared several documents relating to the proposed sale of the Race and Ferdinand properties.

13. On October 3, 2005, Respondent and Richek appeared at the offices of Chicago Title and Trust Company at 171 N. Clark Street in Chicago for the closing of the Race and Ferdinand transactions.

14. At the October 3, 2005 closing, Respondent signed several documents, including the RESPA settlement statement, purportedly on Jessie Mae Hall's behalf. Each time Respondent executed a document on Jessie Mae Hall's behalf, he indicated that he did so as her attorney-in-fact.

15. Respondent knew or should have known that his statements indicating that he was attorney-in-fact for Jessie Mae Hall were false, or he acted with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of those statements. At no time had Jessie Mae Hall granted Respondent authority to act on her behalf with respect to the Race and Ferdinand transactions.

16. On or about October 3, 2005, a representative of Chicago Title and Trust Company caused draft number 1001244218 to be issued and made payable to "Jessie Hall" in the amount of $191,329.16. Draft number 1001244218 represented the portion of the proceeds of the sale of the Race and Ferdinand properties that would have been due to Jessie Mae Hall as the seller of the properties, had she in fact intended to sell the properties. Respondent took draft number 1001244218 after the closing and placed it in his file.

17. Shortly after October 3, 2005, "Samantha" told Respondent that she would send someone to pick up draft number 1001244218 from Respondent's office. Shortly thereafter, a person identifying himself as Simon P. Benton, Jr., and claiming to have "Samantha's" authority to pick up draft number 1001244218, appeared at Respondent's office and picked up the check.

18. At no time on or after October 3, 2005 did Respondent contact Jessie Mae Hall regarding his receipt of draft number 1001244218, or otherwise consult with her about the Race and Ferdinand transactions.

19. On January 19, 2006, counsel for I Return, Inc. (the putative buyer of the Race and Ferdinand properties in the October 3, 2005 transaction) filed a forcible entry and detainer action entitled I Return Inc. v. Jessie Mae Hall, 2006 M1 701518 (Circuit Court of Cook County). On July 28, 2006, Hall appeared by counsel in case number 2006 M1 701518, and caused an answer to I Return's complaint to be filed in which she contested I Return's claim that it was entitled to possession of the Race and Ferdinand properties.

20. Case number 2006 M1 701518 was dismissed for want of prosecution on October 23, 2006.

21. On December 28, 2006, counsel for I Return, Inc. filed a quiet title action in relation to the Race and Ferdinand transactions entitled I Return, Inc. v. Jessie Mae Hall, 2006 CH 28465 (Circuit Court of Cook County). On July 13, 2007, Hall appeared by counsel in case number 2006 CH 28465, and caused an answer and counterclaim to be filed.

22. As of August 13, 2009 (the date that Panel D of the Commission Inquiry Board voted to authorize the filing of a complaint in this matter), case number 2006 CH 28465 remained pending.

23. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. failing to consult with a client (Jessie Mae Hall) as to the means by which the objectives of representation are to be pursued, in violation of Rule 1.2(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

  2. making a statement of material fact or law to a third person (by stating, on closing documents, that he was Jessie Mae Hall's attorney or attorney-in-fact) which statement the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is false, in violation of Rule 4.1(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct;

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

  4. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and

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

WHEREFORE, the Administrator requests that this matter be assigned to a panel of the Hearing Board, that a hearing be held, and that the panel make findings of fact, conclusions of fact and law, and a recommendation for such discipline as is warranted.

James A. Doppke, Jr.
Counsel for the Administrator
One Prudential Plaza
130 E. Randolph Drive, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: (312) 565-2600
Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:   James A. Doppke, Jr.