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Authorities struggle to recover money from law firm frauds

Money: Prosecutors go back to court to recover stolen cash

An office manager jailed last year for stealing £413,000 from a Newcastle law firm can only pay back £58,000 to its partners, it emerged in court yesterday.

David Clattenburg was jailed for four years last September after admitting charges of theft and fraud over a decade while running Singleton Winn Saunders’ Byker office in Newcastle.

He made bank transfers – disguising them as payments to office supply companies – as well as unauthorised cash withdrawals and cheque payments to fund “a luxurious lifestyle”, according to local media reports.

At a Proceeds of Crime Act application yesterday, Judge Barbara Forrester ordered that Mr Clattenburg must pay over the £58,000 within 28 days or risk up to a further two years in prison.

In 2016, the Solicitors Regulation Authority banned Mr Clattenburg from working in the profession.

Meanwhile, the Crown Court has appointed a receiver to recover a ‘tainted gift’ received by the wife of a jailed solicitor who plundered £1.8m from the estates of dead clients.

Susan Crickmore was given nearly £56,000 as an annual ‘salary’ for administrative work by her husband Alan Crickmore, now 61, before he was arrested for fraud and convicted in 2013 after pleading guilty to 24 charges. He was imprisoned for eight years.

In 2015, Mr Crickmore was ordered to pay back nearly £1m within three months or face a further seven years in jail.

Although his share of the money has been repaid, the Crown has still not received the £56,000 due from his wife.

The Old Bailey heard that she was meant to pay it out of the 50% share of the matrimonial property she received when it was sold.

But the Crickmores claimed they thought they were not allowed to use this cash to pay off the confiscation order.

Judge Anthony Leonard QC granted a prosecution application to appoint a receiver to recover the money.

Though noting that she “benefited from an enhanced lifestyle as a result of the fraud”, the judge said: “I have enormous sympathy for Mrs Crickmore who is in some ways another victim of Mr Crickmore.”

Mr Crickmore was a Gloucestershire solicitor who also served as the county’s coroner. His firm was shut down in 2011 and he was struck off in 2014 [1].

He was found to have defrauded clients for 13 years, with the largest money transfers taking place directly before the cruises he went on with his wife.