Illinois Supreme Court disbars 5, suspends 13 in latest disciplinary filing
The Supreme Court of Illinois announced the filing of lawyer disciplinary orders on November 17, 2015, during the November Term of Court. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law.
- Lee Samuel Fainman, Evanston
Mr. Fainman, who was licensed in 2008, was disbarred and ordered to make certain specific restitution as a condition of future reinstatement. Due to his neglect, a federal suit in which he represented five teachers against their employer was dismissed. He misrepresented to the teachers that the case had been dismissed due to factors beyond his control, and the teachers were forced to retain replacement counsel who unsuccessfully attempted to have their suit reinstated. A subsequent malpractice suit brought by the teachers resulted in a $560,612 judgment against Mr. Fainman, who has yet to pay any portion of that obligation. He also neglected an unrelated client matter, failed to return unused funds advanced by the client, and converted approximately $4,000 in settlement funds belonging to the client. Finally, he made misrepresentations to the ARDC in order to impede the disciplinary investigation.
- Christopher C. Hedges, Merrillville, Ind.
Mr. Hedges, who was licensed in 2005, was disbarred on consent. He pled guilty to a Michigan-based charge of attempted criminal sexual conduct. In his plea, he admitted that he attempted to engage in sexual conduct with an individual by using force or coercion, but failed in the perpetration of the sexual conduct. He was sentenced to a 30-day term of incarceration and a 24-month period of probation.
- Frank Edward Peters, Jr., Avon, Colo.
Mr. Peters, who was licensed in 1972, was disbarred. He was convicted in federal court in New York of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and other offenses. In concert with others, he engaged in a scheme to defraud Chase Manhattan Bank by overvaluing property and security to obtain an asset-based revolving line of credit agreement for business where he served as an executive. He was sentenced to a 60-month prison term, a three-year term of supervised release, and he was ordered to pay more than $11 million in restitution to the bank and $750,661 to the Small Business Administration. In addition, he was ordered to forfeit $23,154,259 to the United States. Mr. Peters was suspended on an interim basis on August 24, 2011.
- David Joseph Simard, Henderson, Nev.
Mr. Simard, who was licensed in 1999, was disbarred. He was convicted in California Superior Court of conspiracy to defraud and grand theft. He conspired with a long-time friend to defraud $260,000 from Mr. Simard’s employer, Storm Industries, Inc. After receiving $260,000, the co-conspirator funneled one-half of the funds back to Mr. Simard for Mr. Simard’s own personal use, including the purchase of a Ferrari automobile. He was sentenced to a five-year term of probation. Mr. Simard was suspended on an interim basis on April 28, 2015.
- Paul M. Weiss, Highland Park
Mr. Weiss, who was admitted in 1993, was disbarred. He was found to have engaged in criminal conduct of a sexual nature against various women he employed at his law office, a female friend of his former landlord, and a woman walking down a suburban side street.
- Warren Ballentine III, Durham, N.C.
Mr. Ballentine, who was licensed in 2002, was suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the Court. After a four-day jury trial, he was found guilty in federal court on one count of fraud, one count of mail and wire fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and two counts of making false statements to financial institutions. Prosecutors argued that he acted as a lawyer in real estate closings that involved more than two dozen fraudulent loans that bilked lenders out of almost $10 million.
- Robert Christopher Beck, Wheaton
Mr. Beck, who was licensed in 1995, was suspended on an interim basis and until further order of the Court. He has been charged by prosecutors in DuPage County with stealing more than $2 million from clients. Officials alleged that, between July, 2011 through at least January, 2015 he took money from trusts relating to four deceased former clients and at least three current clients. It was further alleged that he wrongfully used client money to pay personal and business expenses.
- John Dentamaro, Addison
Mr. Dentamaro, who was licensed in 2002, was suspended for six months and until further order of the Court. He neglected a client matter, converted approximately $300 in client funds, and failed to cooperate with the ARDC investigation into his conduct. He did not appear at his own disciplinary hearing.
- Jason W. Feingold, Chesapeake, Va.
Mr. Feingold, who was licensed in 1994, was suspended for two years and until further order of the Court, with the suspension stayed in its entirety by a two-year period of conditional probation. He pleaded guilty to felony DUI in Virginia. He was sentenced to a three-year period of incarceration, with all but 90 days suspended and three-years of supervised probation. He has had two prior driving under the influence of alcohol convictions.
- John A. Franczyk, Glenview
Mr. Franczyk, who was licensed in 1987, was suspended for one year and until further order of the Court. He neglected his client’s business-formation matter, failed to refund the unearned portion of the client’s fee, and failed to cooperate with the ARDC’s investigation into his conduct. He did not appear at his own disciplinary hearing.
- Albert S. George, River Forest
Mr. George, who was licensed in 1969, was suspended for one year and until further order of the Court. He neglected a decedent’s probate estate in which he acted as both attorney and executor and collected an unreasonable fee for the services he provided, resulting in his resignation as executor and the entry of a judgment of approximately $77,000 against him.
- Victor Walter Groszko, Chicago
Mr. Groszko, who was licensed in 2008, was suspended for one year and until further order of the Court, with the suspension stayed in its entirety by a three-year period of conditional probation. He drove his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol on three separate occasions, resulting in two misdemeanor DUI convictions and a conviction for illegal transportation of alcohol. In addition, he plead guilty to failure to provide information with regard to an accident involving property damage following an incident in which he falsely denied being involved in a car accident to a police officer.
- Byron Lee Landau, Las Vegas, Nev.
Mr. Landau, who was licensed in 1978, was suspended for three years and until further order of the Court. He owned Credence Law Group, a company run by non-lawyers that solicited distressed homeowners and claimed to offer legal assistance in obtaining loan modifications from mortgage lenders. Mr. Landau allowed non-lawyers to solicit clients, give legal advice, and withdraw money from his client fund accounts. He also failed to monitor or maintain records of the activity in the client fund accounts. The non-lawyers who ran the company withdrew nearly $6,000,000 in client fees from the client fund accounts while doing little or no work on client cases; Mr. Landau received approximately $62,000 of those fees.
- Corey Edward Meyer, Chicago
Mr. Meyer, who was licensed in 1985, was suspended for 18 months, with all but the first five months stayed by a one-year period of conditional probation. Without authority, he used $36,236.25 in settlement funds belonging to clients and medical lienholders from four different personal injury claims. The suspension is effective on December 8, 2015.
- Tim Osicka, Wausau, Wis.
Mr. Osicka was licensed in Illinois in 1979 and in Wisconsin in 1986. He was suspended by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin for sixty days after failing to place a client’s advanced fee into a client trust account, not refunding unearned fees, and failing to provide full and timely responses to Wisconsin disciplinary authorities. Later, the Wisconsin Supreme Court entered a second 60-day suspension, to be served concurrent with the prior disciplinary order, after he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law while he was administratively suspended for failing to meet continuing legal education requirements. The Supreme Court of Illinois imposed reciprocal discipline and suspended him for sixty days and until he is reinstated in Wisconsin. The suspension is effective on December 8, 2015.
- Linda Lee Spak, Chicago
Ms. Spak, who was licensed in 1982, was suspended for one year. She failed to deposit settlement funds into her client trust account and then failed to pay approximately $2,600 to her client’s medical lien holder. The suspension is effective on December 8, 2015.
- Russell James Stewart, Park Ridge
Mr. Stewart, who was licensed in 1979, was suspended for six months. While representing a husband in a dissolution of marriage proceeding, he notarized a purported marriage settlement agreement without witnessing the signature of his client’s wife. Later, during a prove-up hearing in the case, he falsely told a judge that he had witnessed the wife execute the marriage settlement agreement earlier in the month in his office. He also elicited false testimony from his client regarding the wife’s alleged execution of the purported marriage settlement agreement. The suspension is effective on December 8, 2015.
- Allan Michael Strizic, Denver, Colo.
Mr. Strizic was licensed in Wisconsin in 1975 and in Illinois in 1981. He was reprimanded by the Supreme Court of Arizona, a state where he has no license to practice law, for improperly holding himself out as an attorney by using the designations “J.D.” and “LLM,” and for engaging in other misconduct. In a separate disciplinary proceeding involving the same events as the Arizona case, but also including a finding that he prepared, on behalf of an individual to whom he was not related, an instrument giving him a substantial gift, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin suspended Mr. Strizic for sixty days. The Supreme Court of Illinois imposed reciprocal discipline and suspended him from the practice of law in Illinois for sixty days. The suspension is effective on December 8, 2015.
- George Stephen Kois, Wheaton
Mr. Kois, who was licensed in 1977, was censured. He engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when he appeared as co-counsel in a civil case in Alabama state court during a period in which he was not admitted in Alabama and when he was on inactive status in Illinois and was subsequently removed from the Master Roll for failing to comply with MCLE guidelines.
- Geraldine C. Simmons, Chicago
Ms. Simmons, who was licensed in 1981, was censured. She filed a report in a guardianship case that falsely stated that funds remained in the estate, despite knowing that the guardian had taken some of those funds for expenses not allowed by the probate court.
The following lawyer was placed on permanent retirement status:
- Paul D. Lawent, Elk Road Village