A disbarred Naperville attorney accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his clients and former law partners was found guilty Thursday on six of the original 14 charges against him.
Judge John Kinsella delivered the verdict against 47-year-old Steven Gustafson for six counts of forgery and set his pre-sentencing appearance for Aug. 17.
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Gustafson was charged with stealing more than $675,000, in addition to the forgery, financial institution fraud and financial crimes enterprise charges.
He was accused of stealing and mishandling money from clients and his partners dating to 2001 and using the funds to pay his own business and personal expenses. But Kinsella ruled the statute of limitations on those charges had expired.
Instead, Kinsella found Gustafson guilty of forgery for three instances where he put false information on check stubs and three other times where Gustafson made checks out to cover his personal expenses.
Defense attorney Terry Ekl said he expects to appeal the verdict on the basis that he believes what Gustafson did was not forgery. Gustafson, he said, will be asking for a new trial.
"What he is accused of doing may be theft but it's certainly not forgery," Ekl said. "Nothing on those checks was modified or amended and the check stubs were not amended or altered. Gustafson put false information on the stubs and our position is that is not forgery."
The allegations surfaced while he was a shareholder in the now-defunct law firm of James, Gustafson & Thompson in Naperville. The firm was dissolved Feb. 21, 2006, and all but one of his former partners have sued Gustafson.
The partners alerted the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which sparked the criminal investigation.
If the guilty verdict sticks, Ekl said, Gustafson faces five years in prison.