A legal clerk who siphoned off more than £300,000 from the solicitors’ firm where she worked and spent it on homes and a boat has been jailed for four years.
Rachel Swettenham, who worked at Stockport and Manchester-based Gorvins Solicitors, transferred funds from 24 clients to her personal bank account, her husband’s bank account and to other clients. The 54-year-old pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position at an earlier ruling.
During a sentencing hearing yesterday, Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard that Swettenham, who worked for the firm for 30 years, stole the money between 2012 and 2014.
The total loss to clients was £316,162.81, which Swettenham spent on two houses, a boat, cars and furniture.
Gorvins has refunded all of the money stolen.
The fraud came to light during a review of Swettenham’s employment and conduct and a civil search order was carried out at her home address in Wales.
Her husband Roger Swettenham, whose account some of the funds were transferred to, was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Detective Constable Katherine Perry of Greater Manchester Police, said: ‘Rachel Swettenham was a long-standing employee at this firm where she worked for 30 years, but she brazenly abused her position of trust, to satisfy her greed. All of the clients trusted her to act in their best interests at a time in their lives where they were most vulnerable.’
The Solicitors Regulation Authority said that now the criminal case has concluded it will decide on any appropriate course of action.
A spokesperson for Gorvins said Swettenham was dismissed in August 2014 and that the firm immediately notified the police and obtained a civil injunction to freeze her assets and a search order to recover client papers from her home address.
'A full review of all of her files and client matters has been undertaken and where evidence or suspicion of loss has been discovered these sums were repaid to clients as promptly as possible. Her dishonesty and treatment of vulnerable clients has made the incident hard to deal with for everyone both her trusting clients and in the fiirm.'
The spokesperson added: 'Whilst no client has suffered any financial loss the breach of trust is immeasurable. In light of this, our practice has put in place further security measures to avoid any such incident or similar incident ever occurring again. If anybody is concerned that they may have been affected they should not hesitate to contact either the firm’s senior partner, Mark Deverell or head of marketing, Paul Longmire.'