Lawyer Jailed And Struck Off

Lawyer Jailed And Struck Off

A recent case highlights the dangers for legal professionals of claiming to be dealing with genuine transactions which eventually transpire to be fraudulent. The matter involved a solicitor who had been on the esteemed roll of solicitors for around three decades.

How Was The Fraud Committed?

The group of fraudsters had the seeming audacity to make false identification documents in an attempt to create the impression they were the registered property proprietors. The aim was to mislead the prospective purchaser into believing that the conspirators held the legal title to the property and to convince them to part with just shy of a quarter of a million pounds. To cover up their scheming and pocket their ill-gotten gains, the solicitor collaborated with other legal professionals to cunningly move the monies through several bank accounts giving the impression that all was above board.

However, this was far from the case and a police investigation by Leicestershire Police’s Economic Crime Unit disclosed the activities of the fraudsters. At the end of the trial at Leicester Crown Court, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud. The fraudsters audaciously attempted to pocket around three million pounds by falsely representing themselves as registered title holders of properties. The case also demonstrates the effectiveness of the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 as thankfully the majority of the attempts to mislead were identified and reported by the respective solicitors’ identity checking procedures.

The judge was seemingly unimpressed and took a dim view of the behaviour. Due to the seriousness of the offenses and as a deterrent the judge handed down a sentence of six years imprisonment to the convicted fraudster.

Was This The End Of The Matter?

Sadly for the convicted fraudster, this was not the end of the story. Questions arose over what should happen to his practicing certificate. The Solicitors Regulation Authority launched an investigation through the medium of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The Tribunal sought the now-convicted fraudster’s side of the story. He claimed to be completely innocent of all charges, stated that he had consistently pleaded not guilty, and said he will always plead innocent beyond his dying day.

However, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal reviewed the evidence submitted and appears to have taken into account the following aggravating factors, the:

  • fact that his behaviour was carried on over a longer time period
  • evidence of both an intention and plans to commit fraud
  • serious damage is done to one of the parties involved and the risk of it to others involved
  • number of occasions
  • breach an esteemed position of trust by way of his position as a solicitor and
  • the lengths he went to in covering up his unprofessional behaviour.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal considered the factors above and heard the protestations from the convicted fraudster along with the previous incident involving the same solicitor whereby he had failed to monitor the activities of a person placed in the position of Head of Operations who it transpired was a convicted criminal who went on to steal just shy of £60,000 from an account containing client monies. Following this, the lawyer was barred from practice for one-year-and-a-half for neglecting his supervision duties.

Lessons Learned?

All legal professionals need to be paying close attention to this case and should avoid:

  • abusing their position of trust
  • purporting to be registered proprietors of properties
  • creating false identification documents
  • persuading property purchasers to hand over large sums of money by creating false impressions
  • moving monies through bank accounts in an attempt to cover up fraud and
  • not supervising colleagues.

The Legists Content Team

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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES

[SOURCE 1] Hyde, John – Jailed solicitor struck off role in property sales scam – 18 May 2022 - Jailed solicitor struck off for role in property sales scam | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 2] Fagan, Ciaran – Crooked law firm pair tried to sell £3m properties without real owners knowing – Leicester Mercury – 2 June 2022 - https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/local-news/crooked-law-firm-pair-tried-4182961

[SOURCE 3] Western, Katie et al – Crooked solicitor and his colleague tried to sell three London homes they didn’t own in £3m scam – as pair are jailed for 12 years – Daily Mail - 03.06.2022 - Crooked solicitor and his colleague tried to sell houses they didn't own in £3m scam | Daily Mail Online

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