A solicitor who misappropriated money from deceased clients’ estates over several years and created a 'work of fiction' to confuse investigators has been struck off.
Charles Rhodes, a fee-earner at former Rotherham firm Gichard & Co, misappropriated some £266,875 which he moved from the client account to the office account between 2002 and 2011. The amount was paid back in May this year after the sale of his property.
Rhodes, who was admitted as a solicitor in 1991, overcharged three other clients and then produced fake documents when the Solicitors Regulatiom Authority began to investigate.
Appearing before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal last month, Rhodes said he had been a ‘monumental fool’ who acted alone and ‘manifestly stupid’.
He admitted it was ‘blindingly obvious’ his misconduct would be discovered and gave a lengthy explanation of difficulties in his personal life.
In addition to misappropriating funds, inspections of files handled by Rhodes uncovered a string of deceased clients being overcharged.
In one case, almost £70,000 was withdrawn from the client account relating to nine matters for which no bills had been raised.
In another, Rhodes overcharged by 871% for works that should cost £3,450 but for which he claimed £30,050. Under cross-examination, the solicitor admitted it was ‘hard to escape’ the conclusion his conduct was dishonest, and that he had not wanted the beneficiary of the estate to find he had overcharged.
He produced 17 fake bills for inspectors looking into his conduct, adding that he had ‘panicked’ and created a ‘work of fiction’ which had taken up to three days to prepare.
Seven separate allegations were either admitted or proven against him at the tribunal, which said the reputation of the profession had been ‘significantly damaged’ by Rhodes’ actions.
‘Any misconduct involving client money being misappropriated and estates of deceased clients being overcharged was a matter of the utmost seriousness,’ added the tribunal.
Rhodes was struck off the roll and ordered to pay £32,763 in prosecution costs.