A trainee solicitor who stole more than £100,000 of client compensation to fund a gambling habit – severely damaging the law firm he worked for – has been jailed for two years.
Tauseef Sadeeq, 31, worked at Bolton personal injury firm Jacob Miller Solicitors initially as a paralegal for 14 months and then as a trainee – the firm’s first – for another five before being dismissed in March 2021.
He pleaded guilty last week to 20 counts of fraud by abuse of position – over a 12-month period, he duped various insurance companies out of up to £8,000 a time by giving them his own personal NatWest bank account details instead of those of the firm.
In all, he directed £100,437 to his account, along with £2,000 from the firm.
Mr Sadeeq later said he had spent all the money on gambling without his wife and family knowing. He has since been working as a delivery driver for a courier company.
In March 2021, the firm’s accounts department raised a query about two payments from the firm’s client account which Mr Sadeeq had authorised.
He initially claimed money to cover the payments had been received previously but then said the transfers had been authorised by mistake. An office manager asked for copies of payment request forms but was instead given fake documents.
In August 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority banned Mr Sadeeq from working for law firms without its permission because of what had happened.
Bolton Crown Court heard that the losses suffered by the law firm were so severe that a third of its 24 staff were made redundant and the partners had to pay out £400,000 to cover losses.
Colin Buckle, prosecuting, said Jacob Miller director Hasib Khan had described the fraud as “particularly unsophisticated”, adding: “He was always going to be caught.”
The firm immediately put into place a ‘recovery plan’, recruiting two solicitors to deal with the fall-out from Mr Sadeeq’s behaviour, while the firm reported itself to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Mr Khan told the court that the Covid pandemic meant the firm was already suffering “crippling losses” and the theft meant that eight staff had to be laid off.
Mr Buckle said: “Mr Khan notes how the case concerning the defendant has been widely reported and that the reputation of the firm has been damaged. A number of clients of the firm who became aware of the defendant’s actions removed their business and instructed new solicitors.
“Mr Khan also notes that obtaining new business has been difficult due to the impact upon the reputation of both the firm and himself as a solicitor.”
Mr Sadeeq’s counsel, Oliver Jarvis, said: “He is deeply ashamed and deeply remorseful and knows there are no excuses for his appalling criminality.
“He realises he has damaged the reputation of the firm, has thrown away his career which he had spent time working so hard to build and very nearly qualified and he has ripped his own family apart.
“He was gambling daily, and was getting into debt and took the money from the company out of desperation to cover his losses.
“These offences were completely out of character and driven by this appalling addiction. It is only with the help of his family, who had no idea of this problem until they were discovered, that they helped him to stop gambling.”
Mr Jarvis added that Mr Sadeeq’s brother’s application to join the police failed because of these impending proceedings and they were not speaking.
Judge Martin Walsh described the crimes as a “considerable and gross breach of trust”.
He added: “This was a concerted fraud, calculated and unsophisticated, but pursued over a period of time. The consequences of the fraud were considerable. Not only was there a fiscal loss, but the firm also suffered reputational damage.”