Solicitor steals from client’s estate

A solicitor has been struck off the roll following a tribunal, which found that he had moved more than £820,000 from a late client’s estate into his own bank account, as reported in the Law Gazette.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that James Allie, a former partner with a London firm, Spencer & Howe, now closed, transferred ownership of his late client’s home within five months of the woman’s death.

Allie, the executor of the woman’s will, then used the cash to buy a flat worth more than £580,000, which he moved into after being evited from his own home. The tribunal found that he had acted dishonestly and struck him off. He was also ordered to pay £25,000 in costs.

Wanted to increase the value of the estate

Allie claimed in correspondence with the Solicitors Regulation Authority that he had wanted to increase the value of his client’s estate. He planned to convert her home into flats and use her money to invest in more property.

Speaking on behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Andrew Bullock said that Allie’s explanation did not make sense and was “in reality a pack of lies”. The exercise, he added, had been done entirely for his benefit, not for the trust, and he had come up with the story about maximising he value of the estate when his actions were discovered.

Allie had been a solicitor for four years when he became a partner in Spencer & Howe in 2014. The client died in 2016 and he transferred her Brent home to his name in the November of that year before probate had been granted. The money was transferred to his account two months later.

Education charity beneficiary

The residual beneficiaries of the estate, including an education charity which was to receive the largest sum, were not informed of Allie’s actions at the time. The charity took Allie to the High Court.

Spencer & Howe reported Allie’s actions after concerns were raised about other monies that had been diverted to Allie’s personal account relating to 25 other matters. Separate allegations were made of misappropriation after he admitted to opening a separate bank account with the firm’s name, so that fees could be paid into this and to him.

Allie had claimed this arrangement meant that he could be paid back for his expenses and disbursements that he had made with his own money, but Andrew Bullock said such practices were not allowed.

Mr Bullock told the tribunal members that they would have come across sophisticated frauds in the past where solicitors moved money around and ran sham ledgers, whereas this one was much more straightforward, as he had taken his client’ money and her estate and put them in his name.

Allie, who was not represented and who didn’t attend the hearing. denied dishonesty and acting without integrity.


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