A solicitor who overcharged vulnerable clients and misappropriated their money has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Ieuan Michael Jones, admitted in 1999, was a partner at south Wales firm Jestyn Jeffreys when he took money from client accounts ‘without any justification’ and failed to send out bills. According to the tribunal’s judgment, Jones then lied to the SRA about his actions and, in one case, told the wife of a deceased client to tell the forensic investigation officer ‘everything is fine’.
On one occasion, £44,000 was taken from a deceased client without the surviving wife’s knowledge. In another incident, investigators determined that a total of £23,500 had been transferred from the client account when the total costs should have been £980. Jones blamed an accountancy software glitch for the errors.
The tribunal found that the sums charged were ‘clearly in excess of those which might properly be charged in that they were not justified by a bill and there was no evidence of work undertaken that would justify such a sum being transferred’.
It added that Jones had ‘taken advantage of the fact he was dealing with probate matters and that often there were funds held in the account’ and ‘was seeking to keep the firm afloat and to generate income for himself’. It concluded that Jones had acted dishonestly and had lacked integrity.
Jones was struck off the roll of solicitors and ordered to pay costs of £34,823.
Jones’ fellow partner at the firm, David Walter Phillips, admitted in 1980, was suspended by the SDT for allowing the misappropriation to happen while acting as compliance officer for legal practice and compliance officer for finance and administration at the firm. The tribunal found Phillips’ misconduct was ‘mainly by way of omissions’ and his motivation was ‘taking shortcuts’.
The tribunal pointed out that the pair had had daily meetings and that the accounts should have been reviewed.
Phillips was suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay costs of £14,924.