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OLR alleges attorney took $50K from client’s trust for home loan

Milwaukee attorney Mark Ruppelt faces a possible six-month suspension of his law license for allegations that he took money from a client’s trust account to buy a new home.

In an Office of Lawyer Regulation complaint filed Monday, the agency alleges Ruppelt, then of Gatzke & Ruppelt SC, Waukesha, used $50,000 from a client’s trust account to purchase a new home. When taking the money, the OLR claims, he indicated it was to be used for “expert fees/trial testimony.”

In detailing the five counts of misconduct it levied against Ruppelt, the OLR alleges that he involved the firm’s office manager, Ashley Vitale, and his fellow shareholder, James Gatzke, in the trust account violations.

When reached for comment Thursday, Ruppelt said he had not yet seen the complaint and had been advised by counsel not to comment.

The OLR alleges that when it asked Ruppelt about the money, he testified under oath that it was for legal fees, but the OLR alleges that was a misrepresentation, as the client never consented to the money being disbursed from his trust account.

Ruppelt eventually paid back the $50,000, according to the complaint, but the OLR is seeking a six-month suspension of his law license as a result of his actions.

Ruppelt graduated from Marquette University Law School in 1994. State justices publicly reprimanded him in July for having sex with a client he later married.

The OLR started investigating that matter in 2009 and filed its complaint in 2012, alleging Ruppelt began engaging in sexual relations with the client while he was representing her, and provided false information to his firm and the OLR regarding the pair’s relationship.

Ruppelt pleaded no contest to the OLR’s three counts of misconduct and he and the OLR agreed on a public reprimand. A majority of the justices also agreed and imposed the reprimand.

Gatzke, Ruppelt’s former law partner and a former New Berlin mayor, is the subject of an unrelated OLR investigation. He allegedly misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars of client money, and the OLR has asked the state Supreme Court to revoke his law license. Gatzke has denied the allegations.

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