“Power kick” solicitor struck off for fake employee fraud

SDT: Jury had answered question of whether solicitor was dishonest

A solicitor who used her positions as head of corporate services at a council and chair of trustees at a cancer charity to defraud both of them by paying money to a fake employee has been struck off.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that, in jailing Kalvinder Garcha for conspiracy to commit fraud, His Honour Judge Mooncey noted that Ms Garcha made less money than the two other conspirators but she got a “power kick” out of it.

Ms Garcha, admitted in 2000, defrauded Oadby and Wigston Borough Council of £37,600 between June 2012 and September 2014.

She defrauded the charity Coping with Cancer in Leicestershire and Rutland of a total of £3,675 in a much shorter time period of two months in 2014.

HHJ Mooncey said that although the money lost by the charity was “relatively not a large sum”, it was “of huge importance to those in need”.

Ms Garcha was responsible for human resources and legal in her role at the council, along with licensing and democratic services.

She conspired with the council’s head of HR, Lynn Middleton, and Ms Middleton’s sister, Sharon Reeve, to create a fake employee at the council and the charity using Ms Reeve’s profile and personal details. Ms Middleton was a board member of the charity too.

Ms Garcha reported to council’s senior management team about the “invaluable contributions” Ms Reeve had made and recommended on four occasions that her short-term contract be extended.

Ms Garcha also approved Ms Middleton’s suggestion that Ms Reeve provide cover at the charity.

The solicitor “made others at the charity believe that Mrs Reeve was making a significant contribution of time and services to the charity”.

A fake invoice was submitted to the charity for services allegedly provided by Ms Reeve and money paid into her bank account.

Ms Reeve transferred funds from her bank account to Ms Middleton’s, who then made large cash withdrawals which were paid to Ms Garcha.

The three women were convicted of fraud at Leicester Crown Court in September 2021, with Ms Garcha sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.

The tribunal said Ms Garcha was appealing these sentences, while admitting the disciplinary allegations made against her by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), apart from dishonesty.

On dishonesty, the tribunal said it could rely on the certificate of conviction as “conclusive proof” as to her state of knowledge, and the question of whether the conduct would be considered dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people had been answered by the jury.

The SDT described Ms Garcha’s criminal offending as “deliberate, calculated and repeated” and an abuse of position. The only “identifiable mitigating factor” was that Ms Garcha had self-reported and co-operated with the SRA.

The tribunal assessed the SRA’s costs at £5,445 but noted that Ms Garcha “was in receipt of state benefits and had no equity in her property”.

In those circumstances, with “no realistic prospect of Ms Garcha being able to pay any costs to the SRA within a reasonable timescale”, the SDT made no order for costs.

Last year, Ms Garcha was issued with a Proceeds of Crime Act order of £7,880, and Ms Middleton one of more than £53,000. The latter was also ordered to pay the council £35,000 in compensation and the cancer charity £4,000.

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