A Chicago man has been sentenced to jail after an investigation by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission revealed he had been acting as a lawyer for more than four years despite never receiving a law license.
Hiran Y. Patel, of the 100 block of South Wacker Drive, admitted Tuesday to allegations that he falsely purported to be a lawyer and provided legal advice and services to paying clients without a law license.
The investigation stemmed from one particular case, during which Patel charged and later refunded a Lake in the Hills woman whose husband, a citizen of Ukraine, was involved in an ongoing immigration matter.
While serving as his immigration attorney, Patel then acted as the woman’s attorney when she chose to divorce her husband, and the pair began seeing each other romantically shortly thereafter, according to a petition that ARDC lawyer Scott Kozlov filed on behalf of the ARDC in August.
Patel, 34, was found in direct criminal contempt Tuesday in a McHenry County courtroom and sentenced to nine months in jail. He’s currently serving a two-year prison sentence for theft and false impersonation of a peace officer stemming from a 2016 criminal case out of Cook County, records show.
He is scheduled to be released from prison Feb. 13, at which point he will be returned to the McHenry County Jail to finish his contempt sentence.
Patel filed the divorce petition in the McHenry County Circuit Clerk’s Office on Sept. 27, 2018, and gave an email address listed as firstname.lastname@example.org. Having successfully registered the Patel Law Group as a corporation June 12, 2014, Patel is listed as the president of the corporation, which was involuntarily dissolved Nov. 8, according to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office.
The ARDC began its investigation in October 2018, when a McHenry County judge reported her suspicions about Patel’s qualifications after he presented himself as a lawyer during a divorce proceeding.
It was Oct. 1, 2018, that Patel appeared on the woman’s behalf before Judge Mary Nader in case No. 2018 DV 000803.
He “approached the bench when the case was called, and identified himself as [the woman’s] attorney,” Kozlov wrote.
In August 2018, the Lake in the Hills woman was seeking a lawyer to represent her husband in an immigration petition before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. She was referred by an acquaintance to Patel, who agreed to meet with the woman at an office in Northbrook.
During the meeting, Patel told the woman he was a lawyer and agreed to represent her husband on the immigration matter in exchange for $2,500 as an advance on his attorney’s fees.
About a month later, the woman called Patel to say she wanted to divorce her husband.
Patel agreed to handle both the immigration and the divorce matters for the previously charged $2,500 one-time fee, according to the ARDC’s petition.
Patel and the woman began dating about the same time the divorce case was filed, according to the ARDC’s petition. Patel refunded the woman’s $2,500 and withdrew as her husband’s attorney on the immigration matter.
Continuing to represent the woman in her divorce proceedings, however, Patel made an Oct. 1, 2018, appearance in McHenry County Circuit Court before Nader. At that time, the woman’s husband had not been properly served with the divorce papers, and Patel asked for a default judgment to be entered, according to the ARDC’s petition.
Nader struck the case from her call and told Patel that he needed to prepare a motion before she would address any issues.
“Following the Oct. 1, 2018, court date ... Judge Nader contacted the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission and determined [Patel] was not authorized to practice law in Illinois,” Kozlov wrote in his August petition. “She then submitted a report to the ARDC regarding [Patel’s] conduct in holding himself out as an attorney and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.”
Shortly after, Patel met with a McHenry County Sheriff’s detective and again claimed that he was a lawyer authorized to practice in Illinois. He later came clean to the investigator, however.
“Upon further questioning, [Patel] admitted to Detective [Edwin] Maldonado that he was not an attorney,” Kozlov wrote.
The woman, who was present in court Tuesday, declined to comment after the hearing. McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Richard Behof briefly was appointed to represent Patel in court Tuesday. Neither Behof nor Kozlov could be reached for comment.
McHenry County Judge Michael Coppedge on Tuesday ordered Patel to get rid of any signage, websites, business cards or letterheads that identify him as a lawyer.