BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD

OF THE

ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION

AND

DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

JOHN WILLIAM PLETA,

Attorney-Respondent,

No. 6194842.

Commission No. 2015PR00105

FILED ---  November 9, 2015

 

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission by his attorney, Ari Telisman, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b) complains of Respondent, John William Pleta, who was licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois on May 7, 1987, that he engaged in the following conduct which subjects Respondent to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770:

COUNT I
(Conversion of $448,830.18 belonging to Estate of Isadore Tobiansky)

1. Prior to June 10, 2013, Isadore Tobiansky died. Pursuant to his testamentary documents, his nephew, Edwin Weinshenker, was executor of Tobiansky's estate.

2. On or before June 10, 2013, Respondent and Weinshenker agreed that Respondent would represent Weinshenker in the probate of Tobiansky's will and letters of testamentary.

3. On June 10, 2013, Respondent filed a Petition for Probate of Will and Letters of Testamentary on Weinshenker's behalf, which initiated In the Matter of the Estate of Isadore Tobiansky, Will County Circuit Court case number 2013 P 435.

4. As of July 2, 2013, at least $460,000 belonging to Tobiansky's estate was held in a JP Morgan Chase Bank account ending in the numbers 9171 entitled, "Isadore Tobiansky Living Trust, Isadore Tobiansky Trustee or Edwin Weinshenker Trustee" ("Tobiansky Living Trust account").

5. On or prior to July 2, 2013, Weinshenker, as trustee for the Isadore Tobiansky Living Trust, wrote check number 1440 from the Tobiansky Living Trust account for $450,000 to "John W. Pleta Trust". Respondent knew this $450,000 belonged to Tobiansky's estate.

6. On July 2, 2013, Respondent deposited check number 1440 from the Tobiansky Living Trust account into Respondent's client fund account, a Bank of America account ending in the numbers 3704.

7. On or prior to July 12, 2013, Weinshenker wrote check number 1441 from the Tobiansky Living Trust account for $10,000 to "John W. Pleta Trust Account". Respondent knew this $10,000 belonged to Tobiansky's estate.

8. On July 12, 2013, Respondent deposited check number 1441 from the Tobiansky Living Trust account into Respondent's Bank of America client fund account ending in 3704.

9. On August 1, 2013, prior to any disbursement to or on behalf of Tobiansky's estate, the balance of Respondent's Bank of America client fund account ending in 3704 was $11,169.82.

10. As of August 1, 2013, Respondent had used for his own business or personal purposes $448,830.18 of funds relating to check numbers 1440 and 1441.

11. At no time did anyone with authority over the Tobiansky estate give Respondent consent or authority to use funds relating to check numbers 1440 and 1441 for Respondent's business or personal purposes.

12. At the time Respondent used for his own business or personal purposes $448,830.18 of funds relating to check numbers 1440 and 1441, he knew the funds belonged to Tobiansky's estate, and he knew no one with authority over the estate had given him permission to use those funds for his own business or personal purposes.

13. Respondent's use of $448,830.18 of funds relating to check numbers 1440 and 1441 for his own business or personal purposes constitutes conversion of those funds, and Respondent is responsible for that conversion.

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

  1. failure 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 conversion of funds belonging to the Estate of Isadore Tobiansky from Tobiansky Living Trust check numbers 1440 and 1441 to his own business or personal use and causing the balance in his client trust account to fall below the amount then belonging to the Estate of Isadore Tobiansky, in violation of Rule 1.15(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  2. engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation by conduct including conversion of funds belonging to the Estate of Isadore Tobiansky from Tobiansky Living Trust check numbers 1440 and 1441 to Respondent's own business or personal use, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

COUNT II
(Conversion of $779,225.60 belonging to Estate of Isadore Tobiansky)

15. The Administrator realleges the allegations contained in Paragraphs 1 through 13 of Count I, above.

16. As of November 17, 2013, at least $780,000 belonging to Tobiansky's estate was held in the Tobiansky Living Trust account.

17. On or prior to November 18, 2013, Weinshenker wrote check number 1446 from the Tobiansky Living Trust account for $780,000 to "John W. Pleta Trust Account". Respondent knew this $780,000 belonged to Tobiansky's estate.

18. On November 20, 2013, Respondent deposited check number 1446 from the Tobiansky Living Trust account into Respondent's client fund account.

19. On March 13, 2015, prior to any disbursement to or on behalf of Tobiansky's estate, the balance of Respondent's Bank of America client fund account ending in 3704 was $774.40.

20. As of March 13, 2015, Respondent had used for his own business or personal purposes $779,225.60 of funds relating to check number 1446.

21. At no time did anyone with authority over the Tobiansky estate give Respondent consent or authority to use funds relating to check number 1446 for Respondent's business or personal purposes.

22. At the time Respondent used for his own business or personal purposes $448,830.18 of funds relating to check number 1446, he knew the funds belonged to Tobiansky's estate, and he knew no one with authority over the estate had given him permission to use those funds for his own business or personal purposes.

23. Respondent's use of $779,225.60 of funds relating to check number 1446 for his own business or personal purposes constitutes conversion of those funds, and Respondent is responsible for that conversion.

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

  1. failure 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 conversion of funds belonging to the Estate of Isadore Tobiansky from Tobiansky Living Trust check number 1446 to his own business or personal use and causing the balance in his client trust account to fall below the amount then belonging to the Estate of Isadore Tobiansky, in violation of Rule 1.15(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  2. engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation by conduct including conversion of funds belonging to the Estate of Isadore Tobiansky from Tobiansky Living Trust check number 1446 to Respondent's own business or personal use, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

COUNT III
(Dishonesty regarding disposition of funds belonging to Estate of Isadore Tobiansky)

25. The Administrator realleges the allegations contained in Paragraphs 1 through 13 of Count I, and paragraphs 16 through 23 of Count II, above.

26. Prior to June 30, 2015, Respondent had deposited Tobiansky Living Trust account check numbers 1440, 1441, and 1446 totaling $1,240,000 into Respondent's Bank of America client fund account ending in 3704.

27. As of June 30, 2015, the balance of Respondent's Bank of America client fund account ending in 3704 was $10,207.98.

28. On June 30, 2015, Respondent delivered to Weinshenker a Voucher Receipt prepared and signed by Respondent, which stated:

"I, John W. Pleta, hereby state that I am in receipt of the following funds from the Estate and Trust of Isadore Tobiansky:

2. Escrow Account funds on deposit $1,240,000.00 John W. Pleta Trust Account.

The undersigned states he is in receipt of these funds and is in possession thereof."

A true and accurate copy of the Voucher Receipt is attached and marked as Exhibit 1.

29. Respondent's statement in the Voucher Receipt in paragraph 26 above was false because as of June 30, 2015, Respondent did not have on deposit and was not in possession of $1,240,000 of funds from Tobiansky's estate. In fact, Respondent had already spent at least $1,229,792.02 of the funds for his own business or personal purposes.

30. At the time Respondent prepared and signed the Voucher Receipt in paragraph 26 above, Respondent knew it was false.

31. On September 28, 2015, Respondent sent an email addressed to the Tobiansky family, stating in part:

"It is with great regret and dishonor that I inform you the funds that I held in escrow are no longer available…. I am ashamed and embarrasses [sic] by my actions. Bad business decisions, alcoholism, and a past gambling habit have diluted these funds and fogged my clear thinking."

A true and accurate copy of Respondent's email is attached and marked as Exhibit 2.

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

  1. engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation by conduct including preparing and signing a Voucher Receipt stating that he is in receipt and possession of $1,240,000 of funds belonging to Tobiansky's estate, when in fact Respondent had already spent at least $1,229,792.02 of the funds, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

WHEREFORE, the Administrator respectfully 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.

Ari Telisman
Counsel for the Administrator
One Prudential Plaza
130 East Randolph Drive, Suite, 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: (312) 565-2600

Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:  Ari Telisman