CHICAGO (WLS) -- You hire an attorney to protect your money, but what happens when your lawyer rips you off?
A lawyer convicted of stealing $1.2 million from clients went to prison, but that didn't help the customers with the financial loss. The legal organization that protects people is only now handing out refunds-- almost a year after the ABC7 I-Team started investigating.
"Gone. All of it. Didn't get a penny, not a red cent," Martin Ochwat said in March 2015.
Ochwat , Dave Hanson, and Ronald Kalemba all hired north suburban Crystal Lake attorney Curt Rehberg to manage estates for loved ones who had died. They were supposed to get anywhere from $150,000 to $500,000- but none of them saw a dime. Prosecutors say Rehberg stole it.
Rehberg was sentenced to nine years behind bars in November of 2014. He was disbarred in January
Ochwat, Hanson and Kalemba are just now- almost a year later- getting partial retribution. Letters show how they each received $100,000 from The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) through a program that reimburses fraud victims. The three had reached out to the I-Team because they felt ARDC was stalling.
"You can't get a straight answer," Hanson said.
The ARDC said agency payouts couldn't be considered until the attorney was officially disbarred.
"We just tell people due course. It could be months. Hopefully not years," Jim Grogan, ARDC, said.
ARDC claims cap out at $100,000 per client and $1 million per attorney. More claims pending against Rehberg should all eventually get paid, the ARDC said.
Attorneys are not required to carry malpractice insurance and the money Rehberg took is believed to be gone. His lawyer said Rehberg publically apologized.
Consumers can file a complaint or check on an attorney's record at the Illinois Supreme Court website, http://www.iardc.org/.
Stolen Inheritances: Clients get some refunds
ABC7 I-Team investigation