Monday, 7 April 2008

Solicitor Jailed for £1.2m Theft from Disabled Client

A bent solicitor was jailed for 10 years today after enjoying a life of ``obscene extravagance'' on £1.2 million he stole from a disabled client.

``Arrogant and greedy'' Thomas McGoldrick, 59, stole the money from Keith Anderson, who was paid £1.8 million damages after being left a quadriplegic following a road crash.

He forged a letter claiming Mr Anderson ``gifted'' him the money, and used the cash to live the high life of exotic holidays, fine wines, fast cars, private education for his children and a £750,000 family home.

The victim was ``wrecked and devastated'' after finding out his money had been stolen - and was left in debt.

McGoldrick also created false accounts for his firm, McGoldricks, based in Croydon and Altrincham, ``grossly exaggerating'' his profits to get money on 13 credit cards and 33 loans.
He was convicted of 59 counts of fraud in February after, the judge said, lying his way through a six-week trial at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester.

Passing sentence Judge Roger Thomas QC, said it was the ``very worst breach of trust'' for a solicitor to steal from his client.

He added, ``It is right to point out you did not stint yourself on your lifestyle.

``Mr Anderson was living in limited circumstances, while you, with his money, were content to live the sort of life you had lived before.''

McGoldrick ran up debts totalling £3 million, but saw his chance when his firm took on the case of Mr Anderson, a van driver from Jamaica.

He was left paralysed from the chest down and quadriplegic after the accident in Croydon in November 1996.

When he was awarded the damages in May 2001, McGoldrick drew up a forged letter allegedly from his client which ``gifted'' him half the money.

Belfast-born McGoldrick, who qualified at the University of London in 1973, in fact went on to take around £1.2 million of the cash.

In December 2004 Mr Anderson went to withdraw money to pay for a bicycle as a Christmas present for his six-year-old son and for his mother and sister to fly over from Jamaica for the holidays.
It was, he said, the first Christmas he had ever had any money.

He expected around £1.1 million to be in his account - but his balance was £224.64. The bike had to be sent back and his relatives told not to come over.

``My whole world just stopped,'' Mr Anderson said. I had been brought up to believe solicitors were people you could trust. I felt helpless.``

Meanwhile as McGoldrick's firm was going under he continued to live the high life.

Paying himself a £120,000-a-year salary, pension and motoring package, he drove a red Jaguar, while his much younger wife, Cheryl, drove a silver Mercedes. Both had private registration plates. His wife was paid £1,500-a-month for two days' work a week at his firm.

They lived in a £750,000 house in leafy Mobberley, Cheshire, paying £1,600-a-month for his two children to attend the private Hale Prep school in Cheshire.

He also splashed £15,000 on a new kitchen and £1,600 on a children's climbing frame so large it can be seen on Google Earth. Among his expenses were £80-a-month on wild-bird seed for his garden.

The family enjoyed four foreign holidays a year, jetting to Barbados, Portugal and Spain, and McGoldrick joined a £3,600-a-year golf club.

By 2004 his mounting debts had reached £65,000 in repayments each month - hence his theft of Mr Anderson's money.

Mr Anderson, a father-of-three from Croydon, told the court he would have been ``crazy'' to give away half his money.

The thefts came to light after the Law Society called in police and McGoldrick was arrested. Mr Anderson's losses were repaid by a lawyers' compensation fund.

Dorian Lovell-Pank QC, mitigating, conceded the defendant did have the ``odd foreign holiday'' but his pay ``never rose above £6,000-a-month.''

He added, ``When a man like Mr McGoldrick falls from grace, he falls from a great height. His reputation is in tatters.''

Det Con Mike Field, from Greater Manchester Police fraud squad, said: ``The man is arrogant and greedy. He got his just deserts. At no stage has he shown remorse.''