A well-known Chicago defense lawyer is the subject of a federal investigation in connection with her representation of a crooked cop, court records show.
Attorney Andrea Gambino sent a letter to her client, Glenn Lewellen, last year disclosing the feds had subpoenaed her billing records in the case. Prosecutors were investigating the “disposition of retirement accounts that were posted to secure [Lewellen’s] release on bond in May 2011,” said the letter dated Feb. 26, 2014.
Gambino wrote that she was told she was a “subject of their investigation” and retained her own lawyer.
“The government’s investigation also creates a conflict of interest with regard to any new potential charges arising out of the disposition of the accounts posted to secure your release,” she wrote.
The next month, she withdrew as Lewellen’s attorney.
Lewellen, who is serving an 18-year prison term, included the letter in a filing this month in his appeal of his conviction for being in league with a drug kingpin and his crew. He is asking the federal appeals court to grant him a new trial. One of his arguments is that he received ineffective representation from Gambino.
Lewellen claims Gambino and another defense attorney had demanded additional fees during his 2012 trial. Lewellen says he told Gambino his only “liquid” funds were those securing his bail bond.
“Ms. Gambino told him it would not be a problem if he used those funds since he was not absconding anyway,” Lewellen wrote.
He said he transferred $200,000 from an account that secured the bond and paid the money for legal fees.
“Contrary to Ms. Gambino’s advice, the withdrawal of those funds breached Mr. Lewellen’s bail agreement; moreover, in the government’s view, the withdrawal of the funds constituted a separate criminal act,” he wrote.
Lewellen says the government launched a separate investigation of him, his family members and Gambino as a result of the money transfer.
Attorney David Stetler, who is representing Gambino, insists she did nothing wrong. He pointed out that she is considered a “subject” of the investigation, a less serious designation than a “target.”
“She’s been cooperative with the government,” Stetler said, adding, “She would not have any reason to believe that the funds were from any source that was inappropriate.”
There is no record of criminal charges having been filed against Gambino, Lewellen or others in connection with the investigation into the use of his bail funds.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Milwaukee is handling the investigation because the office in Chicago recused itself to avoid a conflict, sources say.
Lewellen, 58, was a partner in crime with Saul Rodriguez, a drug dealer and paid police informant. For years, Lewellen kept Rodriguez and his murderous crew out of prison by sharing information about police operations and a federal wiretap. He also helped them kidnap their rivals and rip off more than 250 kilos of cocaine and $3 million cash, prosecutors said.
Lewellen was a Chicago Police officer from 1986 until his retirement in 2003.
In 2013, U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall sentenced Lewellen to 18 years in prison, saying she believed his faith made him a “new person.” Prosecutors had sought a 30-year sentence for Lewellen because he was a “dirty cop” who acted out of “pure greed.” Earlier, prosecutors had argued against releasing Lewellen on bond while he awaited trial.
He’s serving his sentence in a low-security prison in Florida.
Gambino has had clients in several high-profile cases. She currently represents Mediha Medy Salkicevic on charges of sending money and supplies to terrorist fighters overseas. In 2003, the Illinois Supreme Court suspended Gambino from practicing law for 90 days and put her on probation for a year for having a personal relationship with a client who returned illegally to the United States in 2000 after he was deported to Mexico on a drug conviction, court records show.