Naperville lawyer gets 3-1/2 years for defrauding partners

Special to the Tribune

A Naperville lawyer accused of defrauding his law partners out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for a lavish lifestyle was sentenced Monday to 42 months in prison.

Steven D. Gustafson, 47, had been found guilty on four counts of forgery, accused of using his access to a law firm bank account to take $466,000.

“I’m painfully aware that I’ve hurt and failed so many people,” he said before DuPage County Judge John Kinsella sentenced him.

Gustafson, the judge said, “suffered from one of the age-old sins recognized by the law: Greed.”

“All of us are faced with decisions to do the right thing, or let temptations control our actions. Most people can overcome that and most people do,” Kinsella said.

Gustafson used the money to pay almost $9,000 in property taxes on his home one year, a police detective testified. He used $18,000 of the firm’s money for a bathroom remodeling project at his house. He paid off his secretary’s dental bill.

Naperville Det. Donald Bisch said the bathroom project was so elaborate that the remodeling company used photos of it in their advertising materials.

Larry Thompson, one of the partners, said Gustafson’s activities were detected in early 2006 when the firm started experiencing financial difficulty. A review of the bank account showed that Gustafson was writing checks for personal use, he said.

Another former partner, Ari Rosenthal, said Gustafson had complained frequently about the amount he was earning, and blamed Thompson, who is the brother of former Gov. Jim Thompson, for not leveraging the relationship to generate more revenue for the law firm.

Gustafson has been disbarred, and his former partners won a $1.3 million civil court judgment against him. He faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

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