The final conspirator in a scheme that bilked Vedder Price out of millions of dollars has pleaded guilty to charges of theft, reimbursed the Am Law 200 firm for $175,000 and accepted a 10-month sentence in a Chicago jail.
Deborah Acuna, 63, admitted in a guilty plea filed Aug. 25 to her part in the long-running financial con, according to court records at the Cook County Circuit Court and first reported by the Daily Herald.
Acuna’s sister, Patricia Lapinski, was employed at Vedder Price from 1975 until 2013. The sisters used Lapinski’s position as director of administration, which allowed her to sign off on expense invoices, to embezzle millions from the firm through a shell corporation the sisters set up, according to court filings.
The sisters and two accomplices embezzled more than $7 million through the scheme, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has said. That helped the sisters purchase a large boat for their families, multiple vacations and a spec home in the upscale Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, according to Lapinski’s guilty plea.
Court records show that Lapinski, 68, pleaded guilty in September 2015 and accepted a six-year prison sentence followed by two years of supervised release.
The alleged scheme involved overcharging Vedder Price for furniture purchased through the shell company, DAS Services, between 1987 and 2000. In 2001, Acuna and Lapinski became more brazen. They stopped purchasing the furniture but continued charging the firm, their plea agreements state. From 2002 until 2013, Cook County prosecutors claim the duo made $6.4 million in profit through the scheme.
“Vedder Price had no idea Lapinski and her sister Acuna were the people comprising DAS,” Lapinski’s guilty plea states.
Court records show that two other co-conspirators have also pleaded guilty to having a hand in the fraud orchestrated by Lapinski.
James Bauer, 64, said in a plea agreement last year that he agreed with Lapinski to accept payments from Vedder Price for work he didn’t do. Bauer’s company, JB Flooring, had previously done carpeting and flooring work for the firm, according to the plea agreement. Bauer paid $100,000 in restitution to Vedder Price last year and agreed to two years of supervised release.
The Am Law Daily reported earlier this year that David Leisen, 59, agreed to a similar scheme as Bauer. A carpenter, Leisen had done contract work for Vedder Price and eventually agreed to accept inflated payments from Lapinski. Bauer and Leisen would pay some of Lapinski’s personal bills, according to court filings. Prosecutors alleged that Bauer and Leisen were paid $950,000 for services they never rendered and Lapinski kept a portion of the proceeds for herself.
Court records show that a Vedder Price employee began asking questions of Lapinski about expenses to DAS in late 2012 or early 2013. The pair incorporated DAS for the first time in Illinois shortly thereafter, in an attempt to provide the firm with tax records. But the jig was up. Vedder Price turned the investigation over to county prosecutors in 2013, the same year Lapinski was fired by the firm.
Five months after a Chicago man pleaded guilty to scamming Am Law 200 firm Vedder Price out of $7 million, an alleged co-conspirator, Deborah Acuna, has done the same in return for a 10-month jail sentence and pledge to pay $175,000 in restitution.