A former solicitor who had to be extradited from South Africa after attempting to flee justice was last week sent to jail for six years for his involvement in what the judge described as “two quite spectacular mortgage frauds”.
John Fitzpatrick, who was struck off in 2002, pleaded guilty to two charges of obtaining money transfers by deception and seven charges of theft of client money between 1997 and 2001, representing £1.16m.
The Serious Fraud Office said Mr Fitzpatrick acted as a facilitator to a dishonest mortgage broker and his client in a fraudulent back-to-back property sale at an inflated price, defrauding the mortgage lender and involving forged documents and identity theft.
Five other participants – including a second solicitor – were convicted in 2004, and another in 2009.
One victim was left jobless and homeless as a result of Mr Fitzpatrick stealing money intended for the purchase of a home and business. Another arrived to move in at the home he believed he had bought only to find it had not been sold to him at all.
Four of the theft counts related to funds entrusted to the former solicitor for investment on the false promise of high returns, which were instead appropriated for his own purposes.
Mr Fitzpatrick fled the country but was eventually tracked down to the Krugersdorp area of South Africa, and an extradition request was made in August 2011. He was arrested in May 2013 by the South African authorities while using the alias John Cooper and was remanded in custody. He did not contest the extradition and an order was given for his surrender to the UK authorities.
In passing sentence at Sheffield Crown Court, HHJ Moore said: “John Fitzpatrick joined with others in two quite spectacular mortgage frauds. The final theft deserved special mention as John Fitzpatrick was so desperate for money at that stage to avoid an inevitable investigation, he stole £100,000 of client money.”
The 76 days he spent in custody in South Africa pending extradition will be deducted from his sentence.