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The Illinois State Bar Association has teamed up with the state Attorney General’s office to crack down on alleged unauthorized practice of law by a Washington state man accused of traveling to Illinois to advise residents as to the legality of pyramid schemes. David Russell Myrland is charged in a civil suit filed in Springfield Wednesday with violating consumer fraud laws as well as the Illinois Attorney Act. He is accused of rendering legal advice without being licensed to do so, and charging for “professional” opinions on issues such as the tax code, social security and gifting clubs. “Myrland was selling legal opinions and encouraging people to rely on them,” said Sterling lawyer Ole Pace, chair of the ISBA’s new Task Force on Unauthorized Practice of Law. “People who relied on the opinions could be facing charges or loss.” The ISBA is taking an aggressive stance on the issue of unauthorized practice this year in response to concerns over non-lawyer owned multidisciplinary practices and as document preparers flourish on the Internet. The ISBA “needs to help stop this kind of harm to see the public interest is protected,” said Pace, of Ward, Murray Pace & Johnson P.C. In a related action Wednesday, Attorney General Jim Ryan also filed suit against three Springfield chiropractors, alleging they conducted an illegal pyramid scheme under the name Family Ties Gifting Club. According to the AG’s office, the pyramid worked by soliciting participants to join the scheme at a $2,000 level, with a promise of $16,000 in return. Such schemes, however, are illegal in Illinois. The investigation was prompted by “hundreds” of mostly anonymous calls to the AG’s office from consumers concerned about the legality of the Family Ties Gifting Club and about particular individuals involved with the scheme, said Assistant Attorney General Karen Winberg-Jensen, who is handling the cases. “This kind of scheme is always going to be doomed to fail,” she said. Because it relies heavily on continually bringing in more people to pay a very few, it inevitably “is going to collapse,” Winberg-Jensen said. As for Myrland, she said his conduct is particularly harmful because he’s not educated in the law, yet he is quoting and misquoting Illinois statutes and “advising people that something’s legal and it’s not.” Myrland, who maintains a website at www.taxthis.net but is not licensed to practice law in either Illinois or Washington, is accused of holding three seminars throughout the state – in Springfield, Bloomington and Canton. At each seminar he incorrectly advised attendees that gifting clubs are legal, then offered to sell his “professional” opinions on the subject at a discount from the regular $50 to $75 asking price, Winberg-Jensen said. Named in the Family Ties Gifting Club suit are: John Warrington, William E. Hankinson and G. Nicholas Ruvarac; none of whom could immediately be reached for comment. The suit against the chiropractors seeks an injunction from the court to prohibit future violations of the law, forfeiture of profits and a civil penalty of $50,000 per violation. People v. John Warrington et al., No. 2000-CH-00342. From Myrland, the suit also seeks the $50,000 civil penalty as well as a contempt of court citation for the unauthorized practice of law. Myrland also could not immediately be reached for comment. People and the Illinois State Bar Association v. David Russell Myrland, No. 2000-CH-00342.

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