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05/22/87 In Re Robert Joseph Vavrik

May 22, 1987


Before the Hearing Board, respondent testified that when he issued the check to the church group he was unaware that there were insufficient funds to cover the check. He explained that he had no knowledge of the balance in the account because after Dominion had relocated, Gavel had the bank statements sent to a post office box rather than to the new address. However, on cross-examination the Administrator produced the statements and the respondent admitted that they had been sent to the new address. Respondent now contends that it has not been shown that he testified falsely but only that he was mistaken as to where the statements were sent.


512 N.E.2d 1226, 117 Ill. 2d 408, 111 Ill. Dec. 589 1987.IL.660

Disciplinary proceeding.

Rehearing Denied October 5, 1987.


JUSTICE MORAN delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.


On October 8, 1984, respondent, Robert Joseph Vavrik, after entering a plea of nolo contendere, was convicted of one count of grand theft, first degree, in the circuit court of Orange County, Florida. He was sentenced to eight years' probation and ordered to pay restitution. Thereafter, the Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a petition with this court pursuant to Rule 761 (103 Ill. 2d R. 761) requesting that the respondent be suspended until further order of the court. On March 28, 1985, an order suspending respondent was entered.

On April 29, 1985, the Administrator filed a one-count complaint with the Hearing Board, recounting the circumstances of the conviction and charging that respondent's misconduct involved moral turpitude, deceit and dishonesty which was prejudicial to the administration of Justice. The Hearing Board found respondent guilty and recommended that he be disbarred. The respondent then filed exceptions with the Review Board, which adopted the findings of the Hearing Board and recommended that he be disbarred. Respondent acknowledges that discipline is warranted but contends that disbarrment is too severe a sanction.

Three issues are raised on appeal: (1) whether the circumstances of his conviction warrant disbarment; (2) whether sufficient evidence in mitigation was introduced to warrant a lesser sanction; (3) whether disbarment would conflict with previous decisions of this court.

Respondent was licensed to practice law in Illinois in 1958 and from 1960 to 1976 he managed his family's trucking business, only rarely practicing law. In 1977 the family business failed and he moved to Florida. In Florida he held various warehouse jobs until August 1980, when he was employed by Pivco Distributing Company, which later became Dominion Title Services, Inc. He was eventually named president of Dominion while its owner, Eric Gavel, served as secretary and treasurer. Respondent's duties included conducting real estate closings and collecting and disbursing escrow funds. In this regard, he was a signatory on Dominion's operating and escrow accounts.

In September of 1981 Dominion was retained to conduct a real estate closing for the Seventh Day Adventists Church. Pursuant to this employment, Dominion received, from a representative of the church group, a check in the amount of $36,000, which was deposited in the escrow account.

Between September 1981 and March 1982 the respondent and Eric Gavel issued 15 to 20 checks against the escrow account. Respondent would make checks payable to fictitious payees, Gavel would forge the payee's endorsement and then respondent would endorse the checks and cash them. The funds were then used to pay the business and operating expenses of Dominion. A total of $53,000 was misappropriated in this manner, of which the respondent received $11,350. In March of 1982 respondent issued a check drawn on the Dominion escrow account for $30,820 payable to the church group pursuant to the terms of the real estate closing. Upon presentment, the check was dishonored for insufficient funds and a criminal investigation ensued.

Respondent's first exception is that the circumstances of his conviction warrant a sanction less then disbarment. In support of this argument, respondent asserts that he was not acting as an Illinois attorney at the time of the offense, that he was sentenced pursuant to a Florida statute which vacates the conviction ...

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