Illinois Supreme Court disbars 6, suspends 3
The Illinois Supreme Court disbarred six lawyers, suspended three and censured two in its latest disciplinary filing. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics rules.
- Harry Ronald Halperin, Highland Park
Mr. Halperin, who was licensed in 1959, was disbarred. He engaged in a fraudulent scheme with a non-lawyer, whereby the two misappropriated approximately $750,000 over six years from a physician for whom they were both working.
- Sarah Jane Melisandejones, San Francisco, Calif.
Ms. Jones, who was licensed in 1993, was disbarred on consent. She neglected many immigration matters, made misrepresentations to clients about the status of their matters, and failed to refund unearned fees.
- Roy D. Kessel, Deerfield
Mr. Kessel, who was licensed in 1991, was disbarred. He participated in a scheme to solicit individuals to invest in a company called the Omicron Group. Investors were told that they would be guaranteed an annual return on their investments, that investments would be secure because none of the invested money would be placed directly into trading, and that the investors could request withdrawals from their account which would be honored within 72 hours. In reality, the Omicron Group was a Ponzi scheme that resulted in 93 people being defrauded out of approximately $1.8 million.
- Daniel Stephen Mahru, Chicago
Mr. Mahru, who was licensed in 1970, was disbarred on consent. He pled guilty to a federal criminal information charging him with defrauding his mother and the estate established to provide for her care and maintenance. After being appointed her plenary guardian,he obtained property and money for his own purposes from financial institutions by using false pretenses, representations and promises.He also made false representations to a probate court regarding the status of his mother’s assets.
- Mark James McCombs, Hebron
Mr. McCombs, who was licensed in 1984, was disbarred on consent. He was appointed to be counsel for the Village of Calumet Park, Illinois and provided legal services in relation to the Village’s Tax Increment Financing Districts and economic development issues. He over-billed the Village approximately $600,000 to $800,000 for legal services he never performed. He pled guilty to theft of over $100,000 and was later sentenced to a six-year prison term.
- Earl F. Wilcek, Elmhurst
Mr. Wilcek, who was licensed in 1981, was disbarred on consent. He misappropriated at least $100,000 from a probate estate by writing checks to himself and to cash from the estate’s money market and checking accounts.
- Michele Lynne Berkel, Wood River
Ms. Berkel, who was licensed in 1993, was suspended for thirty days. She neglected a client’s workers’ compensation proceeding, resulting in its dismissal for want of prosecution, and then misrepresented the status of the case to her client. The suspension is effective on February 3, 2012.
- Thomas O. Finks, Taylorville
Mr. Finks, who was licensed in 1984, was suspended for sixty days. While serving as the State’s Attorney of Christian County, he became a candidate for judicial election and circulated nominating petitions that omitted specific information concerning the judicial vacancy he sought. He also failed to supervise his secretary when she notarized signatures on two nominating petitions, even though the circulators of the petitions did not appear personally before the secretary. Finally, on two occasions, he and his secretary did political work related to his judicial campaign on county time using county resources. The suspension is effective on February 3, 2012.
- Thomas E. Guadagno, Chicago
Mr. Guadagno, who was licensed in 1979, was suspended for five months, with all but the first thirty days stayed in favor of a two-year period of probation, subject to certain conditions.He directed homophobic slurs at other attorneys practicing before the traffic courts in the Circuit Court of Cook County and, following one incident, was found guilty of disorderly conduct. The suspension is effective on February 3, 2012.
- Keith E. Morehead, Northbrook
Mr. Morehead, who was licensed in 1977, was censured. He continued to appear in court and to negotiate for a settlement of a personal injury claim for several months after the death of his client, without revealing the death to the court or to opposing counsel.
- Kerry Irene O'Sullivan, St. Louis
Ms. O’Sullivan, who was licensed in 1999, was censured. She had an ex parte e-mail communication with an arbitrator regarding the merits of a workers’ compensation case that was pending before the arbitrator.