Solicitor used LPA to steal cash from vulnerable client

Money: Solicitor made withdrawals over nearly four years 

A solicitor who stole cash from a vulnerable client while acting for her under a lasting power of attorney (LPA) has been struck off.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that 38-year-old Danielle De Carpentier made 39 cashpoint withdrawals over nearly four years and totalling £7,850 from the client’s personal bank account.

She was convicted of fraud by abuse of position in December 2021 at Nottingham Crown Court and later sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The Crown Court judge described her behaviour as “a gross breach of trust and abuse of position”.

Her victim, ‘Client A’, was “a vulnerable lady, being unable herself to monitor her own finances, and thus there was nobody to operate as a check or balance upon your actions”.

Once questions began to be raised, the judge said, Ms De Carpentier “embarked upon an attempt out of panic… to try and divert attention away from yourself but, in doing so, you sought to divert attention on to others, either real or imagined. That raised suspicion amongst others, none of which is edifying”.

An agreed outcome with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and approved by the SDT, detailed that she began working for Clayton Mott in West Bridgford in June 2014 and, after qualifying as a solicitor in December 2017, she became a partner the following year. She left the firm in 2020.

The regulator said it received a report from Nottinghamshire Police in November 2019 that the solicitor had made the withdrawals of cash from various ATMs using Client A’s debit card between August 2015 and June 2019.

The solicitor denied withdrawing the money and keeping it for herself when interviewed by police and told the SRA that “no funds were withdrawn that were not to the benefit of Client A”.

She said that “the cash withdrawals were all recorded on Client A’s file alongside the receipts signed by the employees of the care home whom she handed the money to”.

However, at a “late stage” during the criminal proceedings, she pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position.

In non-agreed mitigation, Ms De Carpentier said she was “ashamed and profoundly sorry”, having overcome “severe dyslexia and mental health difficulties” to achieve her “dream” of becoming a solicitor. She had “repaid the money in full” and “served her sentence”.

Ms De Carpentier continued to suffer “severe psychiatric problems” and had been “diagnosed as unfit for any form of work for the foreseeable future. I sincerely hope that my shame and my apology is accepted”.

The solicitor accepted that her case did not fall within the small residual category of dishonesty cases where striking off would be a disproportionate sentence.

The SRA agreed, based upon a statement of means provided by Ms De Carpentier, that it would not seek costs.

Approving the agreed outcome, the SDT said: “A criminal conviction, particularly one involving a gross breach of trust and a vulnerable victim is extremely serious. The damage to the reputation of the profession is profound and irreparable.”

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