Father and daughter plead guilty to £250,000 legal aid fraud
A father and daughter who purported to be able to offer criminal law advice have pleaded guilty to frauds worth over £250,000, some against the Legal Services Commission.
Mohammed Arshid Khatana, 51 and his daughter Mahria Khatana, 24, both of Hawkswood Gardens, Brierfield, Nelson, Lancashire, appeared at Preston Crown Court on Wednesday. Mohammed Khatana pleaded guilty to 15 counts of fraud and Mahria pleaded to four counts.
They were arrested after a three-year investigation by the north-west regional organised crime unit and the LSC, during which a large number of frauds were discovered.
The Khatanas had set up two companies, POCA Consulting and Ultima Consulting, and, despite having no legal qualifications, offered legal representation to clients in Proceeds of Crime Act cases and other criminal matters.
A police press release said that Mohammed Khatana would charge clients up to £500 to have their legal aid transferred to a solicitor’s firm.
An LSC spokesman said that Mohammed Khatana would purport to offer expert services to clients and bill the LSC through a solicitor’s firm for the work. He said that all monies had been recovered by the LSC.
The police statement said the Khatanas were also found guilty of defrauding a 74-year-old man, who was facing confiscation proceedings for money laundering. It said that Mahria Khatana obtained quotes for legal representation from a barrister in London, then doubled the quotes and sent a £43,000 bill to the man.
Mohammed Khatana was also found guilty earlier this year of attempting to enter into a money-laundering arrangement. A seven-day trial in April heard that he gave advice on how to launder money to an undercover officer posing as the girlfriend of a drug dealer.
Detective superintendent Jason Hudson from the north-west regional organised crime unit said: ‘Khatana was a ruthless serial fraudster who was prepared to use his daughter to steal from a wide range of individuals for his own gain.'
He said: ‘We worked closely with the LSC in identifying and stopping Khatana's abuse of the legal aid system.’
LSC chief executive Matthew Coats said he was pleased that the pair had pleaded guilty, adding: ‘Legal aid funding is public money and we will not tolerate people trying to defraud the taxpayer.’
The solicitors for the defendants, Birmingham firm Kangs and Manchester firm Stephen Lickrish & Associates respectively, both declined to comment. Both defendants will be sentenced at Preston Crown Court on 12 September.