A solicitor who told clients a series of lies to hide the fact he was stealing £1m from their accounts has been jailed. Andrew Davies, 34, covered his crimes by blaming administrative errors, pretending payments had not been processed or falsely saying he had carried out work.
He produced several forged documents, including land registry certificate, insurance certificates and even court judgments that wrongly told clients they had been awarded damages.
Davies, from Wigan, was jailed on Friday for seven years and six months after pleading guilty to 43 fraud-related offences at Bolton Crown Court.
The court heard Davies took over a solicitor's practice in Manchester in December 2012, but within two years his misconduct had begun. In July 2014, the firm helped two clients arrange their mortgage via a large bank accounts, but he altered the account details on the payments and diverted almost £500,000 to his personal account.
On another occasion, instead of paying off a client's mortgage Davies retained £381,000 into the firm's client account and used it to pay his own bills and wages. He blamed an administrative error at the bank and produced a false statement showing the money had been successfully transferred.
In a separate case, he continued taking money for a mortgage despite the sale falling through, moving these funds into a fake account and advising the client to cancel his direct debit payments.
Davies produced forged court judgments and gave false updates to clients claiming he had won them damages when he had done nothing towards their case. He allowed his employees to continue issuing proceedings even though he had stopped the firm's litigation insurance cover, leaving clients facing significant court bills if they lost their case.
When the Solicitors Regulation Authority investigated the firm in November 2013, after a £50,000 shortfall in the firm's client account, Davies continued to produce forged documents up until the firm was shut down in 2014. Davies initially denied his involvement, suggesting it was employees who had carried out the fraud, before admitting his guilt after a further 14 forged documents were uncovered.
Detective Sergeant Julian Scarsbrook of Greater Manchester Police's economic crime unit, said: 'Solicitors are people that we trust in some of the most stressful times of our lives, but Davies has completely undermined this role through his deceitful and absolutely illegal actions. His corrupt actions tarnished the excellent reputation of the firm he took over, and the hard-working employees at his company, who had no idea about Davies’ dishonest dealings.'