A solicitor who stole £2m from vulnerable clients to fund an extravagant lifestyle has been jailed for eight years.
Alan Crickmore, a former coroner for Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of theft and eight counts of fraud at Southwark Crown Court (pictured) last month.
In a statement, the Crown Prosecution Service said Crickmore abused his position to systematically steal from and defraud his clients. He usually targeted elderly or infirm clients living in nursing homes or stole from the estates of deceased clients whose wills he had drawn up.
In one such instance, Crickmore not only withheld funds bequeathed to a client’s brother in Poland, but to keep his fraud a secret he failed even to notify the rightful recipient about the death.
The 57-year-old splashed out the proceeds on fine dining and expensive holidays to lead a life of luxury. Police got involved after an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority into overcharging at his practice.
‘It is no coincidence that his largest money transfers took place directly before the cruises he went on with his wife,’ said Jane Mitchell, specialist fraud lawyer for the CPS.
‘As his offending spiralled out of control, his web of lies began to unravel, and he found himself stealing from one client to conceal shortfalls he had created by earlier thefts.
‘The victims and their families placed their complete faith and trust in Alan Crickmore, and his betrayal of that trust was flagrant and brutal.’
The SRA has confirmed Crickmore’s practice, Alan C Crickmore Solicitors, in Cheltenham, was closed in December 2010 following an intervention.
The SRA’s panel of adjudicators sub-committee resolved there was ‘reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Crickmore in connection with his practice as a solicitor’. The committee further resolved he had failed to comply with the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998, the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 and Solicitors Practice Rules 1990.
Detective chief inspector David Sellwood, who led the investigation, said: ‘At a hearing in October Alan Crickmore admitted his guilt to stealing a total of £1,985,097 from clients. His plea came after an overwhelming amount of evidence of his offending was put to him.
‘It was a detailed, complex and protracted investigation that saw officers complete 581 reports, take 341 statements, carry out 48 interviews, produce a total of 5,433 documents and present 3,365 exhibits.
‘Every piece of paper, every number we scrutinised and every minute this investigation has taken has been worth it to get justice for his victims and their families.’