A solicitor who fixed property deals for drug dealers and mortgage fraudsters has been banned after being jailed on money laundering charges.
Neil Richard Bolton agreed he should be removed from the roll after he was sentenced last October to nine months in prison following his conviction on seven counts of failing to comply with money laundering regulations.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Bolton was employed by a Stockport firm for 13 years until his dismissal in 2014. He dealt with many conveyancing transactions for several criminals subsequently convicted for serious offences including drug dealing, mortgage frauds and tax evasion.
He was found to have dealt with the conveyances in a way that facilitated mortgage frauds through the dishonest acquisition of properties by the clients; and to have failed to meet his obligations around issuing client care letters and file maintenance.
Files were found with no identity documents or inadequate evidence of appropriate proof of identity. There were no instructions from, and no evidence of calls or correspondence with, named purchasers, and an unusually high proportion of credits were made by cash or banker’s draft.
Sentencing Bolton at Manchester Crown Court, His Honour Judge Field noted that ‘to say you have let yourself down and your profession down is a significant understatement’.
The judge said Bolton made no serious attempt to comply with regulations and had helped his client launder £400,000.
Bolton also admitted to lending a client £60,000 from funds held by a family member, and to providing a banking facility through several client ledgers. He further admitted to failing to ensure that lenders were advised of all material facts pertaining to property transactions.
Bolton, 57 this year, had maintained he dealt with the conveyances in a way that unwittingly facilitated mortgage frauds and the dishonest acquisition of properties by the clients. Effectively he had been duped. He made no substantial gain for himself and there was no suggestion of deliberate dishonesty, argued Bolton, who had no previous regulatory or disciplinary findings against him.
The tribunal rubber-stamped an outcome agreed between the SRA and Bolton that he should be struck off and pay £6,000 costs.