On Wednesday, November 16, 2022, the Hearing Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission ruled on charges for attorney discipline against Chicago attorney Michael Anthony Manges for conversion of funds belonging to his employer.

The case is styled In the Matter of Michael Anthony Manges and was brought by the Administrator of the  Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission under commission no. 2022PR00027.

The charges cited Manges’ violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits:

Conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation

The Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

The following are as alleged and summarized from the Complaint:

Manges was an associate attorney at Joseph A. LaZara & Associates. He was hired in 2005.  Manges allegedly engaged in dishonest conduct by accepting from clients, title companies, and others at least 575 checks intended for his former law firm; fraudulently endorsing checks that were made out to the sole owner of the law firm and making them payable to himself; depositing the checks into his personal bank account; and using the proceeds of those checks, totaling $165,338.83, for his own purposes without authorization. It was further alleged that Manges affixed Mr. LaZara’s purported signatures on these checks.

The Administrator requested that this matter be assigned to a panel of the hearing Board, that a hearing be held, and that the panel makes findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a recommendation for such discipline as is warranted.

The Report and Recommendation of the Hearing Board reads:

 “In early September 2021, LaZara asked a paralegal to rebill a client that he believed had not yet paid a bill for a real estate transaction that the firm had handled. After receiving the invoice, the client sent back a canceled check and a statement indicating that the amount was paid. LaZara looked at the back of the canceled check and saw that the check was made payable to Respondent and endorsed with a signature that looked like LaZara’s but was not his signature. LaZara noticed that the check had been deposited into an account that did not belong to him. He recognized the account as the same account, at Parkway Bank, into which Respondent deposited his paychecks.”

The Report continues:

“LaZara testified that, for every one of the 575 checks that he reviewed, it was clear that the money was firm money, and therefore that Respondent knew the checks did not belong to him and that the proceeds of the checks belonged to the firm. In explaining why he believed that Respondent knew the proceeds of those checks belonged to the firm, LaZara noted that there were “many, many times, many files where [Respondent] did, in fact, give me the proceeds of the checks. These were checks that he selectively decided not to give me.” LaZara explained that, instead of giving him the file and having it closed out appropriately, Respondent would mark the file like it was closed and put it in the batch of closed files.”

The Report further alleges:

“In mitigation, Respondent repaid $165,338.83 to the firm prior to hearing. . .He has no prior discipline.

In aggravation, Respondent’s misconduct occurred over a span of at least seven years, from November 2014 to September 2021, and involved at least 575 separate instances of misappropriation of firm funds and hundreds of acts of forgery to enable that misappropriation. . . Respondent used the misappropriated funds for his own purposes. . . He engaged in further deceptive acts in order to conceal his conduct.”

The Report additionally notes:

“Regarding the impact of Respondent’s conduct on him personally, LaZara testified: “In retrospect, I look very naïve, but I trusted him. I trusted him really throughout his tenure here because of the way he came to work for me and because I knew his family. I trusted him. And shame on me for doing that.”

The Hearing Board, having weighed the nature of Manges’ misconduct, the substantial evidence in aggravation, and the minimal evidence in mitigation, recommends that Manges be disbarred.

Mr. Michael Anthony Manges attended the Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology, graduating in 2003. He practices in Chicago, Illinois. He has been licensed in Illinois, license no. 6280536.

A copy of the Report and Recommendation of the Hearing Board can be found here.