BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD

OF THE

ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION

AND

DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

ROBERT CHRISTOPHER BECK,

Attorney-Respondent,

No. 6226609.

Commission No. 2015PR00123

FILED --- December 29, 2015

 

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorneys, Marcia Topper Wolf and Chi (Michael) Zhang, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), complains of Respondent Robert Christopher Beck ("Respondent"), who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on May 2, 1995, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct, which subjects Respondent to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770:

ALLEGATIONS COMMON TO COUNTS I AND II

1. On or about May 24, 2007, Respondent and Marie R. Larson ("Larson"), who was then in her eighties, agreed that Respondent would represent Larson in revising her estate plan. Respondent agreed to prepare a first amendment and restatement to a 2005 revocable trust agreement, a will, a declaration of living trust, powers of attorney for health and property and other documents. Larson paid Respondent a flat fee in the amount of $2,000 for performing those services.

2. Larson named her older sister, Lucille E. Klockgeter, as beneficiary to her trust ("the Larson Trust") and agent for the Powers of Attorney, and Albert Mathes or Margaret Mathes as successor agents.

3. In June 2007, Ms. Larson introduced Respondent Lucille E. Klockgeter, ("Klockgeter"). Respondent and Klockgeter agreed that Respondent would represent Klockgeter and provide legal services related to estate planning.

4. On July 9, 2007, Respondent prepared the Lucille E. Klockgeter Declaration of Trust ("the Klockgeter Trust"). Carol E. Daum and Marie Larson were named as successor trustees, and Klockgeter's niece and nephew as beneficiaries of the Klockgeter Trust.

5. On March 10, 2010, Respondent and Larson executed a second amendment to the Larson Trust, naming Larson as trustee, and upon her death, her "legal counsel, Robert C. Beck" as successor trustee. Respondent was named agent for the Powers of Attorney. The Larson Trust provided that upon Larson's death, "the balance of the trust estate shall be held, managed and administered by the Trustee for the sole and exclusive benefit" of Klockgeter. It further provided that upon Klockgeter's death, one-half of Larson's estate was designated for five charities, and the remaining half would be split between Larson's niece and nephew.

6. In 2010, Klockgeter was diagnosed with dementia.

7. On November 3, 2010, Respondent and Klockgeter executed an amendment to the Klockgeter Trust, naming Respondent as trustee during Klockgeter's lifetime.

8. On August 20, 2012, nine days before Larson's death and while Larson was in hospice care, Respondent assumed the role of successor trustee of the Larson Trust.

9. Between 2005 until her death in August 2012, Respondent served as Larson's attorney. In addition, he was also the attorney for and executor of Larson's estate and trustee of the Larson Trust.

10. Between 2007 and 2014, Respondent served as Klockgeter's attorney. In addition, he was also the trustee of the Klockgeter Trust.

11. Between August 2012 and present, Respondent maintained the following personal and business accounts (hereinafter "Respondent's bank accounts"):

a. Community Bank of Wheaton account number ending in 8248, entitled "Robert C. Beck, PC IOLTA";

b. Chase checking account number ending in 0282, entitled "Law Offices of Robert C. Beck";

c. Chase savings account number ending in 2231, entitled "Law Offices of Robert C. Beck":

d. Chase checking account number ending in 0798, entitled "Maria Beck or Robert C. Beck";

e. Chase savings account number ending in 9109, entitled "Maria Beck or Robert C. Beck";

f. Chase checking account number ending in 1635, entitled "Robert C. Beck";

g. Wheaton Bank and Trust checking account number ending in 0399, entitled "Law Offices of Robert C. Beck"; and

i. Wheaton Bank and Trust checking account number ending in 3397, entitled "Robert C Beck Maria Beck."

COUNT I
(Commingling and conversion of funds belonging to the estate of Marie Larson)

12. Between February 2012 and July 2012, Respondent received at least $21,200 in fees for legal services he provided in connection with his representation of Larson.

13. On August 20, 2012, Respondent assumed the role of successor trustee of the Larson Trust. At that time, Larson had two checking accounts: Wheaton Bank and Trust account number ending in 4495; and Community Bank Wheaton/Glen Ellyn account number ending in 8454.

14. On August 29, 2012, Larson died.

15. Between August 2012 and March 2014, Respondent, as attorney and executor for Larson's estate and successor trustee of the Larson Trust, liquidated Larson's assets, including closing various investment accounts and handling the sale of her home. Respondent deposited those proceeds into Larson's accounts ending in 8454 and 4495.

16. Between August 2012 and March 2014, Respondent, as attorney and executor for the Larson Estate, and successor trustee of the Larson Trust, wrote the following checks, payable to himself, totaling $208,000, on Larson's Community Bank account ending in 8454:

Check number

Date

Amount

3544

September 18, 2012

$10,000

3551

October 10, 2012

$15,000

3750

December 4, 2012

$12,000

3754

January 3, 2015

$10,000

3782

July 16, 2013

$6,000

3786

November 26, 2013

$15,000

3788

March 21, 2014

$140,000

17. Respondent deposited the checks he drew from Larson's account, number ending in 8454, into one of Respondent's bank accounts referenced in paragraph 11 above and, prior to any disbursement to any beneficiary of the Estate of Larson, used those funds in their entirety for his own personal or business purposes.

18. Between August 2012 and March 2014, Respondent, as attorney and executor for the Larson Estate, and successor trustee of the Larson Trust, wrote the following checks, payable to himself, totaling $245,410, on Larson's Wheaton Bank and Trust account number ending in 4495:

Check number

Date

Amount

1026

August 21, 2012

$17,000

1037

September 4, 2012

$18,410

1041

September 28, 2012

$10,000

1042

October 17, 2012

$15,000

1043

November 19, 2012

$60,000

1044

December 7, 2012

$40,000

1045

January 16, 2013

$10,000

1046

February 4, 2013

$10,000

1093

June 11, 2013

$15,000

1054

July 12, 2013

$10,000

1058

July 24, 2013

$15,000

1071

September 25, 2013

$15,000

1074

October 21, 2013

$10,000

19. Respondent deposited the checks he drew from Larson's account number ending in 4495 into one of Respondent's bank accounts referenced in paragraph 11 above and, prior to any disbursement to any beneficiary of the Estate of Larson, used those funds in their entirety for his own personal or business purposes.

20. At no time did Respondent have authority to use any proceeds from Larson's estate for his own business or personal purposes.

21. Between August 2012 and March 2014, the total amount of funds drawn by Respondent on Larson's account numbers ending in 8454 and 4495 was $453,410. Respondent did not provide legal services on the Larson matter during that time warranting fees of $453,410.

22. At the time Respondent engaged in conversion of the Larson Trust funds, he knew that he was using those funds for his purposes without authority.

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

a. failure to hold $453,410 of funds belonging to the Larson Estate separate from Respondent's own and Respondent's law firm's property, by conduct including conversion of the funds by removing the funds, in connection with his representation of Larson, from the Larson Trust and using them for his own purposes without authority, in violation of Rule 1.15(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

b. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, by knowingly converting $453,410 of the Larson Trust funds for his own purposes without the authority of Larson or trust beneficiaries, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

COUNT II
(Commingling and conversion of funds belonging to the trust of Lucille Klockgeter)

24. At the time of Larson's death on August 29, 2012, Respondent understood that Klockgeter, as a result of her dementia, could neither comprehend Larson's death nor manage her own finances.

25. On February 26, 2013, in addition to his role as attorney, Respondent assumed the role of trustee of the Klockgeter Trust.

26. As of August 29, 2012, Klockgeter had a savings account at JP Morgan Chase account number ending in 3137.

27. Between August 2012 and March 2014, Respondent liquidated Klockgeter's estate assets, including closing various investment accounts, and deposited those proceeds into Klockgeter's trust account ending in 3137.

28. Between August 2012 and March 2014, Respondent, as attorney for Klockgeter and trustee of the Klockgeter Trust, made the following transfers from Klockgeter's Chase Bank account ending in 3137, to one of Respondent's accounts set forth in paragraph 11 above, totaling $253,100:

Date of transfer

Amount

February 26, 2013

$10,000

March 4, 2013

$500

March 4, 2013

$5,000

March 13, 2013

$3,000

March 20, 2013

$2,000

March 20, 2013

$2,000

April 3. 2013

$2,000

April 3, 2013

$1,200

April 8, 2013

$1,000

April 10, 2013

$1,000

April 15, 2013

$3,500

April 17, 2013

$18,000

April 22, 2013

$1,500

May 28, 2013

$10,000

May 29, 2013

$15,000

July 8, 2013

$1,500

July 17, 2013

$1,000

July 24, 2013

$400

August 9, 2013

$11,000

August 19, 2013

$10,000

August 30, 2013

$6,000

September 9, 2013

$1,600

September 16, 2013

$2,900

October 25, 2013

$10,000

October 29, 2013

$42,000

October 31, 2013

$5,000

November 8, 2013

$3,500

November 12, 2013

$1,500

November 25, 2013

$1,000

November 26, 2013

$8,000

December 9, 2013

$2,000

December 11, 2013

$5,000

December 16, 2013

$3,500

December 27, 2013

$3,000

January 16, 2014

$10,000

January 21, 2014

$10,000

February 6, 2014

$10,000

February 18, 2014

$10,000

February 18, 2014

$3,500

March 4, 2014

$5,000

March 11, 2014

$2,500

29. Respondent deposited the funds which he withdrew from Klockgeter's account number ending in 3137 into one of Respondent's bank accounts referenced in paragraph 11 above, and used those funds in their entirety for his own personal or business purposes.

30. At no time did Respondent have authority to use any portion of the Klockgeter Trust funds for his own business or personal purposes.

31. Between February 26, 2013, and March 2014, Respondent did not provide legal services to Klockgeter or to the Klockgeter Trust warranting fees of $253,000.

32. At the time Respondent engaged in conversion of the trust funds, he knew that he was using those funds for his own purposes without authority.

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

a. failing to hold $253,000 of funds belonging to the Klockgeter Trust separate from Respondent's and Respondent's law firm's own property, by conduct including conversion of the funds by removing the funds, in connection with his representation of Klockgeter, from the trust and using them for his own purposes without the authority of Klockgeter or trust beneficiaries, in violation of Rule 1.15(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

b. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, by conduct including knowingly converting $250,000 of Klockgeter's trust funds by removing the funds from trust and using them for his own purposes without the authority of Klockgeter or trust beneficiaries, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

COUNT III
(Commingling and conversion of funds belonging to the estate of Mary English)

34. In or about May 2011, Respondent met with Mary English ("English"), a close family friend of Respondent's in Wheaton, IL. English was 84 years old and discussed with Respondent about possible changes to her Declaration of Trust prepared in 1999 ("the English Trust"). Respondent agreed to provide English with legal services relating to her estate planning.

35. On May 27, 2011, Respondent prepared an amendment to the English Trust, naming himself as the successor trustee of the English Trust upon her death. English's eight children were the equal beneficiaries of the English Trust following English's death.

36. English signed the trust amendment on May 27, 2011 and died on June 12, 2011.

37. Respondent received between $28,000 and $30,000 as legal fees for his legal work relating to the English Trust.

38. As of May 27, 2011, English had Community Bank of Wheaton/Glen Ellyn checking account number ending in 6202 and Edward Jones brokerage account number ending in 7611.

39. After May 27, 2011, Respondent, as attorney and executor for the Estate of English, liquidated English's assets, including closing various investment accounts and handling the sale of her home, and deposited those proceeds into English's accounts ending in 6202 and 7611.

40. From May 27, 2011 through August 6, 2012, Respondent, as attorney and executor for the Estate of English and trustee of the English Trust, wrote the following checks payable to himself, drawn from the brokerage account ending in 7611, totaling $173,000:

Check number

Date

Amount

1005

July 12, 2011

$4,000

1006

July 15, 2011

$50,000

1014

August 24, 2011

$10,000

1015

September 15, 2011

$17,000

1016

October 24, 2011

$6,000

1018

November 23, 2011

$7,500

1019

December 5, 2011

$5,000

1021

December 23, 2011

$10,000

1022

January 19, 2012

$2,500

1023

January 19, 2012

$3,000

1024

February 6, 2012

$10,000

1025

April 9, 2012

$10,000

1026

April 26, 2012

$10,000

1029

May 18, 2012

$8,000

1030

June 7, 2012

$2,000

1033

July 25, 2012

$6,000

1034

August 6, 2012

$12,000

41. From May 27, 2011 through January 31, 2013, Respondent drew from the checking account ending in 6202 and wrote the following checks to himself, totaling $16,500:

Check number

Date

Amount

1005

July 12, 2011

$1,500

1068

January 31, 2013

$15,000

42. Respondent withdrew the funds from the English accounts discussed in paragraphs 41 and 42 and deposited them into one of Respondent's bank accounts referenced in paragraph 11 above and, prior to any disbursement to any beneficiary of the Estate of English, used those funds in their entirety for his own personal or business purposes.

43. At no time did Respondent have authority to use any portion of English's funds for his own business or personal purposes.

44. Between May 27, 2011 through January 31, 2013, Respondent did not provide legal services to the English Estate warranting fees of $189,500.

45. At the time Respondent engaged in conversion of the English Trust funds, he knew that he was using those funds for his own purposes without authority.

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

a. failing to hold $189,500 of funds belonging to the Estate of English separate from Respondent's and Respondent's law firm's own property, by conduct including conversion of the funds by removing the funds from the English Trust in connection with his representation of the English Estate, and using them for his own purposes without the authority of English or trust beneficiaries, in violation of Rule 1.15(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

b. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, by conduct including knowingly converting $189,500 of English's trust funds by removing the funds from trust and using them for his own purposes without the authority of English or trust beneficiaries, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

COUNT IV
(Pending Criminal Matter)

47. The Administrator repeats and re-alleges paragraphs 1-46 of Counts I, II, and III above, as paragraph 47 of Count IV.

48. Based on the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1-46 above, as well as other evidence further developed by the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office, on September 2, 2015, the DuPage County State's Attorney filed a felony complaint in the Circuit Court of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, entitled People of the State of Illinois v. Robert C. Beck, 15CF1754. Therein, Respondent was charged with theft, in violation of Chapter 720, Paragraph 5/16-1(a)(1)(C) of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, alleging that Respondent:

Knowingly exerted unauthorized control over property of Mary English, Marie Larson, Lucille Klockgeter, Lucille Crouch, Gail Gurecki, Alan St. John, and George Angelillo, being United States currency, having a total value exceeding one million ($1,000,000.00) dollars, by using the property knowing such use probably will deprive the owner permanently of such use or benefit, and defendant's conduct constituted a series of related acts in furtherance of a single intention and design as set forth in 725 ILCS 5/111-4(c), the last such act having been committed on 01/27/2015.

49. On September 22, 2015, a TRUE BILL was issued by the DuPage County State's Attorney, indicting Respondent in the 15CF1754 criminal matter with charges of theft, financial exploitation of an elderly person, and mail fraud, in violation of 720 ILCS 5/16-1(a)(5)(C), 720 ILCS 5/16-1(b)(6), 720 ILCS 5/16-1(b)(4), 720 ILCS 5/17-56(a), 720 ILCS 5/17-56(b)(4), 720 ILCS 5/16-1(b)(6.2), and 720 ILCS 5/17-24(a)(1)(2)(A).

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

a. committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as lawyer in other respects, by conduct including, but not limited to, theft, financial exploitation of an elderly person, mail fraud, and misappropriation of funds from Mary English, Marie Larson, Lucille Klockgeter, Lucille Crouch, Gail Gurecki, Alan St. John, and George Angelillo, in violation of 720 ILCS 5/16-1(a)(5)(C), 720 ILCS 5/16-1(b)(6), 720 ILCS 5/16-1(b)(4), 720 ILCS 5/17-56(a), 720 ILCS 5/17-56(b)(4), 720 ILCS 5/16-1(b)(6.2), and 720 ILCS 5/17-24(a)(1)(2)(A), and 720 ILCS 5/16-1(a)(1)(C), and in violation of Rule 8.4(b) of the 2010 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.

b. engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, by conduct including, but not limited to, the misappropriation of funds from Mary English, Marie Larson, Lucille Klockgeter, Lucille Crouch, Gail Gurecki, Alan St. John, and George Angelillo, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the 2010 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.

51. Respondent used the funds of Mary English, Marie Larson, Lucille Klockgeter, Lucille Crouch, Gail Gurecki, Alan St. John, and George Angelillo without authority and for his own purposes

52. As of the date of filing of this Complaint, Respondent has not made restitution to the estates of English, Larson, Klockgeter, Crouch, Gurecki, St. John, and Angelillo.

WHEREFORE, the Administrator respectfully requests that his 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.

Chi (Michael) Zhang
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:  Chi (Michael) Zhang