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Local News

Commission accuses Castle Law attorney of kickback scheme

A state regulatory commission has accused a local lawyer of taking kickbacks in an alleged scheme that increased the fees his clients paid for real estate surveys.

The complaint against Gary K. Davidson, a regulatory action that could affect his law license, was filed by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

It also has unsurfaced a legal fight between Castle Law and Frank Andreano, a Joliet attorney who left the firm in 2016 and took evidence of the surveyor fees to the ARDC.

Davidson heads the real estate department of Castle Law, a firm with offices in Joliet and Homer Glen, according to the ARDC complaint filed Aug. 31.

The complaint states that Davidson made an agreement "to refer substantially all property surveys in connection with his real estate practice at Castle Law to Winemiller & Associates," a surveying business in Homewood headed by Samuel Winemiller.

"Respondent (Davidson) further agreed that Winemiller would increase his average surveyor charge of $300 to $475, which amount would include $100 that would be submitted to Respondent by Winemiller after the closings," the complaint states.

The arrangement was made for 225 real estate closings between July 29, 2014, and May 20, 2016, the complaint states, listing the addresses of the properties affected.

The complaint states that the arrangement violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which "prohibits any fee, kickback or other thing of value" for referring services involved in a federally regulated mortgage.

Davidson could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, and Winemiller declined to comment.

A partner at Castle Law, Edward Jarot Jr., sent a statement in response that said in part, "To the extent any surveyor fees were paid there were always services provided in connection with those fees, and the surveyor fees never resulted in any increased cost to the clients, as the $475 survey charge is within the range of costs charged by surveyors in the area."

The statement also blames the allegations on Andreano, calling him "a disgruntled member of Castle Law, who forwarded the complaint the morning he left the law firm."

Andreano said he did refer evidence to the ARDC concerning the real estate deals.

"They investigate these independently," Andreano said. "I referred it to them. But what they do with it after that is they investigate them."

Andreano said he did his own "internal investigation" into the surveyor fees while at Castle Law, which contributed to his separation from the firm.

"Unfortunately, the evidence that was submitted is true, and Mr. Jarot knows it's true." he said.

Jarot's statement says that the ARDC complaint is connected to civil litigation between Castle Law and Andreano. Andreano said he and another lawyer who left the firm at the same time, Ted Hammel, are in litigation against Castle Law, but the lawsuit is not related to the ARDC charges.

Andreano said he had no role in another count in the ARDC complaint, which accuses Davidson of falsely reporting that he had complied with Illinois Supreme Court rules requiring 30 hours of continuing legal education in a two-year period ending June 30, 2016.

"As of June 30, 2016, Respondent (Davidson) had not completed any of the required 30 hours of CLE (continuing legal education) activity for the reporting period," the complaint states.

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