Solicitor jailed for £1.4 million theft

A solicitor who stole £1.4 million to fund a luxury lifestyle was jailed for seven years today by a judge who said he was "motivated by greed".

Simon Morgan, 50, and his wife Ann, who was the office manager at Milners in Leeds, plundered the firm's own accounts and client accounts for two-and-a-half years to finance their spending sprees.

They used company money to pay for expensive family holidays abroad, flights by private jet and putting a deposit on a Ferrari.

A jury at Leeds Crown Court found Morgan guilty of six counts of theft a fortnight ago.

Today, Judge James Goss QC told him: "These offences in their totality represent a persistent and entirely selfish betrayal of trust of your fellow partners and your staff, as well as clients of Milners."

He added: "These were offences motivated by greed."

Mrs Morgan was deemed unfit to stand trial and will be dealt with at a later date.

Judge Goss said Morgan's punishment needed to reflect the damage such cases could do a profession which relied on "trust and honesty".

He said the couple used a "web of lies" within the office to continue their offending.

At one stage they told colleagues that expensive trips were for non-existent cancer treatment for Mrs Morgan.

The jury was told company cheques paid off the couple's numerous credit card bills run up for hotels, designer clothes, and meals at their favourite restaurants including Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire.

The partners were told Mrs Morgan had qualifications as a solicitor and an accountant, but she had neither.

They agreed she would act as office manager, taking charge of the accounting, but would draw no salary as she had private means.

The court was told she not only drew a substantial salary, but "took huge amounts of the firm's money as well".

Police said after the case that the couple were legitimately paid £10,000 a month for their work at the firm.

But, they said, they were also spending £10,000 a week taken from Milners and clients.

The jury heard examples of the pair's extravagant lifestyle on stolen funds. It included a family holiday for five to Antigua in 2003, costing more than £20,000.

Later the same year they funded a skiing holiday for six in the Alpine resort of Courchevel, including a flight to France by private jet from Leeds Bradford Airport.

Morgan and his wife also paid for a private flight to Inverness for a weekend in Scotland.

Morgan, of Main Street, Bilbrough, near York, denied six charges of theft between January 2002 and July 2004.

Simon Myerson QC, defending, told the judge all the money had now been repaid.

Morgan showed no emotion as he was jailed at Bradford Crown Court watched by a number of partners from Milners from the public gallery.

Mrs Morgan, 55, was found to be unfit to stand trial for psychiatric reasons, but the jury at Leeds Crown Court decided she "did the acts" charged with her husband after three days of deliberations.

Today, Judge Goss heard she is continuing to suffer from a "malignant narcissistic preoccupation".

He adjourned her case to a date to be fixed so more inquiries can take place.

Speaking after the case, Milners partner Giles Ward said: "It was nothing more or less than a scam at a very high level.

"It's a long stretch, which reflects the severity of the crime. It was systematic over a number of years. It was a cold and calculating fraud involving a number of people at the firm. Judge Goss accurately reflected the severity of what had been perpetrated.

"We're pleased with the result and now we'll just get on with our lives."

Detective Sergeant Pete Langham, of West Yorkshire Police's Economic Crime Unit, said: "Morgan and his wife abused their positions to fund their lavish lifestyles and they pressured other members of staff to cover up the thefts using the internal accounting systems."

The officer added: "The Morgans' greed and desire for a lavish lifestyle led to others being forced to take a drop in their earnings to make up the deficit in the accounts, showing a clear lack of regard to what effect it would have on others."

He said: "Today's sentences reflect the serious nature and scale of the thefts."