IN THE SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

In the Matter of:

THOMAS ERIC WETTERMANN,

Movant, 

No. 6230503.

 

Supreme Court No. M.R.30542

Commission No. 2020PR00031

 

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

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Scott Renfroe, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 762(a), states that on the date Thomas Eric Wettermann (hereinafter "Movant") filed a motion requesting that his name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys, a one-count complaint was pending against Movant before the Commissionís Hearing Board. Had that complaint 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 following conclusions of misconduct:

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Movantís admissions, records from his former law firm, and testimony from others at that firm would have established the following facts:

(Submission of False Expense Reimbursement Forms)

1. Between at least January 15, 2015 and December 19, 2019 (when his partnership in the firm was terminated as a result of the conduct described in this statement of charges), Movant was a partner in the Chicago office of the McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP intellectual property law firm, where he was responsible for patent prosecution and due diligence matters. As part of the work he did for the firm and its clients, Movant occasionally travelled from Chicago to other cities and towns, and he knew that the firm would reimburse him for the

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airfare, lodging, dining and other expenses that he legitimately incurred on those business-related trips.

2. The firmís expense-reimbursement process required that attorneys submitting requests for reimbursement were to support their requests by attaching receipts (including, for example, for airfare, hotel bills and restaurants), then signing the form to verify both the accuracy of its contents and that the expenses for which they were seeking reimbursement had been incurred for business purposes. In some cases, Movant bought airline tickets or made other transportation reservations, then canceled the original purchase and received a full or partial refund. Movant kept the receipt for the original purchase or reservation, and submitted it to the firm as part of a request to be reimbursed for expenses he had not actually paid, and for trips he had not actually taken.

3. In 2015, Movant submitted three requests that the firm reimburse him for purported expenses he falsely claimed to have incurred in making ten trips to Brookfield, Wisconsin, between January and November of that year. Movant requested and received $1,171.67 in payment of purported expenses that he knew he had not actually paid.

4. In 2016, Movant submitted at least 68 false requests that the firm reimburse him for purported expenses he claimed to have incurred in travelling to various locations between November 18, 2015 and December 15, 2016. In reality, Movant had not taken those trips or paid the claimed expenses. Movant requested and received $37,600.19 in payment of purported expenses that year that he knew he had not actually paid.

5. In 2017, Movant submitted at least 116 false requests that the firm reimburse him for purported expenses he claimed to have incurred in travelling to various locations between December 19, 2016 and December 22, 2017. In reality, Movant had not taken those trips or paid

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the claimed expenses. Movant requested and received $66,448.88 in payment of purported expenses that year that he knew he had not actually paid.

6. In 2018, Movant submitted at least 104 false requests that the firm reimburse him for purported expenses that he claimed to have incurred in travelling to various locations between November 26, 2017 and December 8, 2018. In reality, Movant had not taken those trips or paid the claimed expenses. Movant requested and received $82,836.95 in payment of purported expenses that year that he knew he had not actually paid.

7. In 2019, Movant submitted at least 91 false requests that the firm reimburse him for purported expenses that he claimed to have incurred in travelling to various locations between December 7, 2018 and October 11, 2019. In reality, Movant had not taken those trips or paid any of the claimed expenses. Movant requested and received $91,807.46 in payment of purported expenses that year that he knew he had not actually paid.

8. The vast majority of the funds Movant received came at the firmís expense, as he attempted to remove from his clientsí bills (i.e., "write off") the fraudulent charges that he originally identified as having related to client matters (as opposed to business development for the firm), but he was not entirely successful in doing so. In at least four instances, fraudulent travel charges totaling $4,624.96 were passed on to, and paid by, firm clients. After it discovered Movantís conduct, the firm reimbursed those clients.

9. In 2019, the firm conducted a review of Movantís claimed travel expenses. Following its review, it concluded that in addition to the false claims outlined above (for which it found that there was no evidence to show the trips had been taken, and in many cases evidence to show that the trips had not been taken), there were additional claimed expenses that could not be documented. The amount of those claimed expenses was $81,771.32, which, when combined

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with the $279,865.15 described above, brought the total of Movantís questioned expenses to $361,646.47. On November 27, 2019, Movant paid the firm $100,000 as partial restitution. He later paid an additional $20,000 to the firm and forfeited his capital account and a portion of his monthly draw. On December 19, 2019, the firmís other partners voted to terminate Movantís partnership in the firm.

II. CONCLUSION OF MISCONDUCT

10. By reason of the conduct described above, Movant has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, by conduct including submitting requests for reimbursement of purported travel expenses that he knew he had not actually paid, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.

 


 

Scott Renfroe
Counsel for Administrator
130 East Randolph Drive, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Telephone: (312) 565-2600
E-mail: srenfroe@iardc.org
E-mail: ARDCeService@iardc.org

Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By:  /s/Scott Renfroe
          Scott Renfroe