A struck-off solicitor has been jailed for nearly six years for defrauding clients of £880,000, which he used to prop up his practice and pay off loans.
Richard Hallows, 66, pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position and was sentenced at Caernarfon Crown Court on Friday to five years and 10 months in prison.
Police investigated five separate complaints of fraudulent activity, with £600,000 the highest individual loss.
That client was given numerous excuses by Mr Hallows for why he could not return the money, including missing a plane and train, that his ex-wife had collapsed, his daughter was in surgery and that the bank needed seven working days to process the request. The funds were not returned.
Another client appointed Mr Hallows as an executor of estate worth £143,000 following a family member’s death and again he gave numerous excuses for not distributing the estate to the family.
Mr Hallows qualified in 1983 and was the sole solicitor and proprietor of the Mold firm Hallows Associates, where he handled commercial litigation, commercial property and conveyancing work. The Solicitors Regulation Authority shut it down in February 2018.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal struck off Mr Hallows in 2020, finding that he operated “a system of teeming and lading” – the practice of using funds in one account to replace the money taken from another – with hundreds of thousands of pounds in various accounts.
There was a pattern of ‘rubber’ cheques for large sums being paid into client account from the company owned by his wife and then being returned unpaid within a short period of time.
The tribunal said this was “a device… artificially to inflate the balance on the client account” to make it look like there was no shortfall and conceal the withdrawals he had made.
According to a local newspaper report, prosecutor Nicola Daley told the court that between 2016 and 2018 Mr Hallows used the money to “prop up” the running of his office and “pay off loans” he owed.
One of the clients, whose proceeds of a property sale Mr Hallows misused, told the court that but for a payout from the SRA Compensation Funding, their business would have collapsed.
Judge Timothy Petts said the “selfish” solicitor had shown “a total lack of remorse”, adding: “You’ve never had any excuse or defence but, rather than face up to what you did at an earlier stage, you simply held out ’til the day of the trial when everything had caught up with you.”
Detective Constable David Hall, of North Wales Police’s economic crime unit, said: “His behaviour has left a trail of destruction for victims who placed their trust in him and the professional services he claimed to offer.”
Claire Busby, specialist prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, said “Hallows abused his position of trust as a solicitor for his own personal gain and in doing so, put his clients at risk of huge financial loss. Confiscation proceedings will be pursued against Mr Hallows.”