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A former law firm secretary is fighting federal bank fraud charges after a partner at a Chicago litigation boutique claimed she stole almost $900,000 from his personal account over 18 months. According to prosecution court filings, a Chicago lawyer, identified as “individual A,” alleges that secretary Crystal Sangiacomo wrote more than 20 checks worth $882,226 from his Fidelity Investments account, mainly to herself, and signed them with his signature stamp. Although individual A is not named in the federal complaint, Bruce Sperling, a name partner at Sperling & Slater, is the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit making similar allegations in Cook County Circuit Court. Both lawsuits were filed in December, the criminal case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Sangiacomo pleaded not guilty in the criminal case on Feb. 2. Neither suit alleges that money was stolen from firm accounts. Sperling declined to comment. A call to Sangiacomo’s court-appointed lawyer, Paul Augustus Wagner, wasn’t returned. According to an FBI affidavit, individual A had figured out what was happening by Dec. 14, and he started talking about it with other people at the firm. The affidavit states that Sangiacomo, who had allegedly cashed the checks between March 2008 and November 2009, told an unidentified “individual B” at her home that night that she had done something “really bad” and cried as she said that she’d probably go to prison. Sangiacomo, who made $60,000 annually, didn’t show up for work the next day, but called individual A, who had an FBI agent in his office at the time. According to the affidavit, Sangiacomo allegedly told individual A that she had taken the money to buy her home out of foreclosure and said that about $150,000 remained in her bank accounts. Sangiacomo had worked at the firm for four years, including two for Sperling. According to filings in the civil suit, the questionable checks were discovered when Sangiacomo called in sick one day and co-workers looked at the bank statements. The Cook County case seeks a permanent injunction to stop the alleged check-writing and the sale of any property purchased with the allegedly stolen money, including furniture, jewelry and Chicago White Sox tickets, as well as a default judgment against Sangiacomo. Sperling founded Sperling & Slater with Paul Slater in 1976 after working at a New York law firm, according to his firm’s Web site. The 21-lawyer firm represents clients in corporate class actions, securities, antitrust, patent and other types of litigation. Harvey Barnett, who is of counsel to the firm, is representing Sperling in the Cook County case.

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