Solicitor jailed for £250,000 fraud

A solicitor was jailed for five years today after pleading guilty to fraud offences, which benefited him to the tune of almost £250,000, police said.

Derek Speed, 58, of Dextor Close, Canterbury, Kent, admitted 15 counts of fraud at Maidstone Crown Court last month.

The offences related to using fake identification documents to transfer money and shares from clients to accounts he held while he was practising as a solicitor in Staplehurst.

The court heard Speed misappropriated funds from clients and opened a bank account in the name of Martin Smith into which he transferred them.

He transferred £65,000 from a probate account to the fake bank account. From the same probate account he transferred shares to the value of around £96,500 into the name of Martin Smith.

He subsequently cashed a share dividend cheque for £1,221 and obtained a further cheque from the probate funds for the sum of £39,850, which he again paid into the Martin Smith account.

There was a total of £202,568 appropriated from the probate account, the proceeds of which were destined to be distributed to charities, the Kent Police spokeswoman said.

From another client account, he caused cheques to be made payable to Martin Smith for sums that totalled £16,500 during a period between December 2008 to August last year.

He also wrote his own name on a cheque from the client which was intended to pay solicitor's fees, to the value of £3,000. A total of £19,500 was stolen from this client's account.

Speed charged another client £400 for court fees but still debited the client account with these fees.

His fraudulent activities came to light when the practice he worked at received a number of calls from a person complaining that he had been operating the alias of Martin Smith.

Detective Inspector Mark Fairhurst, of the joint Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "Speed abused his position as a solicitor, deceiving his employer, and fraudulently obtained a quarter of a million pounds from client accounts.

"In the preparation of his offences, Speed showed a level of premeditation and planning that was calculated and callous to deceive those around him.

"The fact he stole money destined to support a charity such as the RNLI makes this even more deplorable.

"The inquiry was complex as he had invented two fake identities for himself but the investigation team worked hard to bring this man to account for his actions."