The I-Team is investigating the case of a lawyer accused of pocketing some of his client's money, allegedly "misappropriating" their real estate funds.
The official state organization that disciplines and regulates attorneys filed a 12-count complaint against the lawyer accused of holding on to his client's cash. One family listed in the complaint said they hired this attorney to help them get out of a financial mess, but instead, they said, they're deeper in a financial hole.
"He was coming to my work and asking me for money. How did he come to do such a thing," said Sophie Dimas through tears.
Christos and Sophie Dimas of west suburban Niles said their life is in financial ruins, and they partially blame Park Ridge attorney Nikola Duric.
The couple said they paid Duric tens of thousands of dollars to help them save properties, but they lost their restaurant and are losing their home.
"How can you do this to us? How can you do this?" Sophie wondered.
A legal complaint filed by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission shows the Dimases paid more than $111,000. In the complaint, Duric is charged with "misappropriating" about $45,000 from the Dimases.
"He gave us hope that everything was going to be fine," Sophie said.
The Dimases said they were trusting Duric to use the money to pay and negotiate with the banks to keep them in their home, which is now under foreclosure.
"I am going to be on the street," Christos said.
They also said Duric was going to help them save their restaurant. Instead, the Dimases said they were forced to sell their beloved business at a loss. Duric denies making such promises.
"Be in my shoes for 40 years working in that location," Christos said.
"There's no words to describe how much trust I had in this person, and the disappointment and the anger I have inside me," Sophie said.
And they aren't the only angry clients; seven others say they are owed money. The ARDC complaint said he "misappropriated" about $320,000 in all.
"I feel like he's a criminal, stealing people's money like that," said Sophie.
In his response to the ARDC complaint, Duric denied all allegations.
He declined an on-camera interview with the I-Team. His attorney instead offered this statement: "...Mr. Duric denies engaging in misconduct. He looks forward to presenting evidence regarding the matter at hearing..."
"He thinks he's innocent and walking down the street," Christos said. "It's unbelievable."
Jason Knowles confronts Nikola Duric
The I-Team still had more questions and caught up with Duric.
Jason Knowles: "The Dimases say you have their money, the Dimases say you stole their money."
Duric: "That's untrue and I believe my attorney has sent you a communication to that effect. It's not true."
JK: "He did but we want to talk to you about those allegations and what you have to say about them. Are you denying them?"
And in a statement about the Dimas's claims, his lawyer said:
"Mr. Duric also denies that he engaged in any misconduct ... He represented them for seven years, helping them stave off foreclosure on both their house and their restaurant despite not making mortgage payments during that time. His work helped put them in the position of being able to sell their restaurant, rather than lose it. The Dimases did not compensate Mr. Duric for that work. He has filed a claim against them for that compensation..."
He also said their "false claims" stem from them not paying him in full.
Jason Knowles: "But it's not just one allegation, there are several people."
Duric: "And again, they are not true. We have responded accordingly and we continue to respond and I will defend myself because they are untrue and they are fabricated, but having said that-"
JK: "By all those people?"
Duric: "I'm not sure what you mean by 'all the people.'"
JK: "Well, you've seen the complaints."
Duric: "Let me please again, I don't want to go from you but I'm late for an appointment. Come to my office, we can come up with a time and we talk. OK?"
He never set up another interview, and the Dimases said they haven't gotten any answers from him. In fact, the ARDC complaint also alleges that Duric has failed to cooperate in the investigation regarding the Dimases.
"I feel totally betrayed," said Sophie. "For something like that to happen was total devastation."
The next ARDC hearing is at the end of November and can be a lengthy process.
Depending on the final outcome, the Illinois Supreme Court could take away Duric's license and order him to pay back clients in the complaint. The case could also be dismissed depending on what the ARDC finds in the hearing process.
CLICK HERE to see the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commision's complaint against Nikola Duric
HOW TO CHECK ON AN ATTORNEY'S STATUS
1. Go to www.IARDC.org
2. In the menu on the left-hand side of the page click on "Lawyer Search"
3. Enter the attorney's name into the search boxes
4. Click on the attorney's name in the search results for more information
You can also call the IARDC at 312-565-2600
HOW TO FILE A REQUEST FOR AN INVESTIGATION OF AN ATTORNEY
This 'Request for Investigation' form can be printed or downloaded from the ARDC's website www.iardc.org. Mail the Request to the ARDC at 130 E. Randolph Dr., Ste. 1500 Chicago, IL 60601-6219. Email transmissions are not accepted. If you have questions, you can call the ARDC at 312-565-2600.