Fund helps victims in West Dundee lawyer scam case
The criminal case against William Chesbrough, a West Dundee attorney accused of bilking his clients, is still wading through the court system.
But the victims in the case already have received restitution payments through the Client Protection Program, operated by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
In 2011, more than $1 million was paid to victims of attorney misconduct; the program, created by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1994, is solely funded through attorney registration fees.
So far, the ARDC has authorized $223,000 in payments to eight victims in the case.
ARDC Deputy Administrator James Grogan said the commission, which disbarred Chesbrough in fall 2010, only needs to prove an ethical violation and not "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is the standard for a criminal case.
"It was designed to help citizens who have been the subject of lawyer misconduct," Grogan said. "The commission decided the people were entitled to money."
So far, five clients have been reimbursed, including two whose losses hit $75,000, which is the limit per client covered through the program, Grogan said. Payments to another three victims have been authorized, but because those were escrow accounts the commission is determining exactly who to pay.
Chesbrough, 59, of the 1400 block of Grand Point Boulevard, was arrested in 2010 and charged with felony theft charges that he bilked $140,000 from two elderly women and $70,000 from a host of other clients.
His attorney, Gary Johnson, said over the summer that his client was likely to enter a blind plea or cold plea -- through which a defendant admits guilt without agreeing on a sentence beforehand with prosecutors.
Chesbrough appeared briefly before Kane County Judge Bruce Lester Wednesday and a Feb. 2 date was set for a possible plea.
"I would not have any reason to think (Chesbrough) would have a negotiated plea at this point," said Charles Colburn, a special prosecutor brought in to handle the case.
Chesbrough faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, but probation also is an option.