Alton attorney surrenders law license amid ARDC charges of conversion, pattern of misconduct

By Ann Maher | Nov 18, 2014

Robert Scott Forbes of Alton has surrendered his law license amid charges that he misappropriated $9,324.66 from the state of Illinois and engaged in a pattern of misconduct to conceal his misconduct by making false statements to attorneys, appellate court justices and others, filing false discovery responses, fabricating documents and testifying falsely under oath.

Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) administrator Jerome Larkin stated Nov. 14 that had the charges been subject to hearing, the commission would have proven that Forbes forged signatures, cashed and used for his own purposes six $1,554.11 workers' compensation checks that the state erroneously sent to his client Nancy Gibson, in care of Forbes, following her unexpected death in March 2006.

Forbes had represented Gibson, who had worked for the state, in settlement of a workers' compensation proceeding that resulted in a lifetime award.

The Department of Central Management Services (CMS), which was responsible for lifetime payments to Gibson, sued Forbes to recover the overpaid funds.

During a court proceeding in 2008, Forbes falsely testified that his client's sister Rebecca Whitehorn had authorized him to cash the checks and that he had given the funds to Whitehorn, according to Larkin.

A circuit court dismissed the CMS case against Forbes for a jurisdictional reason, but on appeal the Fifth District Appellate Court reversed the dismissal and remanded for further proceedings, according to Larkin.

At oral argument before a Fifth District panel comprised of Justices James Wexstten, Thomas Welch and Stephen Spomer, Forbes testified Aug. 30, 2010 that he had informed an assistant attorney general about his client's death before CMS had sent the over-payments, that he asked for the checks to continue, that Whitehorn endorsed the checks and that he disbursed proceeds to Whitehorn or his client's children, according to Larkin.

"All of Movant's foregoing statements to the justices were false," Larkin wrote. "Movant had not told (assistant attorney general) that Gibson had died and Movant himself signed Gibson's name to the six checks and used all of the proceeds for his own purposes."

During proceedings, after the case was remanded, Forbes falsely testified that Whitehorn had signed Gibson's name on the checks and that he had disbursed $1,243.29 - 80 percent of the proceeds of each check - to Whitehorn and his client's children and kept $310.82 - 20 percent for himself as fee, Larkin stated.

When ARDC counsel asked for explanation in June 2012, Forbes created and forwarded six documents that purported to be photocopies of receipts, each for $1,243.29, that he issued to Whitehorn in April, May, June, July, August and September 2006, according to Larkin.

"By using computer software, Movant copied Whitehorn's signatures from six different pleadings and documents that she had signed in connection with the Gibson probate case and affixed those purported signatures to the fabricated receipts, placing a different signature on each receipt," Larkin stated.

Forbes gave a sworn statement to the ARDC on Feb. 20 of this year and testified before a panel of the Inquiry Board on May 1. On both occasions, Forbes repeated the false assertions that he had given 80 percent of the proceeds to Whitehorn and obtained her signatures on the receipts, Larkin stated.

When counsel for the ARDC informed Forbes at the May 1 hearing that its forensic document examiner determined that the receipts were fabricated, Forbes answered that he had gotten the receipts from his secretary, and if they were falsified he had not known about it, according to Larkin. Forbes also testified that he had given cash to his secretary to deliver to Whitehorn.

"Movant's testimoney implied that (his secretary), instead of delivering the funds to Whitehorn, may have taken the funds and fabricated the receipts," Larkin wrote. "Movant's testimony was false."

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