Probate Manager jailed for fraud and money laundering

A Probate Manager, and the friend who aided and abetted her criminal activity over 13 years, have been jailed for defrauding and laundering more than £634,000 from the estates of deceased clients.

While working at two different law firms in Tamworth, Laurna Porter took funds destined for charities or friends and relatives from 23 different estates between 2006 and 2018.

She often wrote cheques out to her friend Julie Atkins, who then paid a portion of the money back to Porter.

The fraud was discovered through an audit after a discrepancy was discovered with one of the wills involving a £5,000 payment to Atkins.

Porter admitted to fraud by abuse of position and money laundering in 2022 and was sentenced to four years in jail.

Atkins was found guilty of money laundering in February this year and sentenced to 30 months.

At the sentencing hearing in April a spokesman for Staffordshire Police, which carried out the investigation, said that the fraud was targeted and systematic over a long period. It could not have been successful without the repeated dishonest actions of both.

He added that Staffordshire Police welcomed the sentences given to Porter and Atkins, as “Porter had held a position where trust had to be placed in her by those whose estates she managed; that trust was breached.”

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “Defrauding potential beneficiaries of a deceased’s estate is only possible if the beneficiary never becomes aware of the bequest. 

“Presumably many of the victims of this fraud were unaware that the deceased had made provision for them in their wills, otherwise the fraud would have been discovered much sooner.

“Sadly, it is not just those who have died who are vulnerable to this type of fraud but over recent years there has been a substantial increase in what is known as “Elder Fraud”. 

“This involves trusted family members abusing the terms on which they act as Attorneys under Powers of Attorney in relation to elderly relatives.

“All too often the trust placed in children, grandchildren or other close relatives is abused and those entrusted to look after the financial affairs of elderly family members instead pay large sums of money to themselves. 

“Sometimes the elderly relatives can find themselves reduced to living in state-funded accommodation in circumstances in which, had they not been defrauded, they could have afforded to reside in much more comfortable surroundings.

“Forensic accountants can play an important role in reviewing financial records and presenting evidence to support claims made against allegedly dishonest attorneys.

“In addition, the risk of fraud can be mitigated by including a provision that requires that attorneys must prepare annual accounts that can then be scrutinised by other family members.”

Sources: CPS

Posted in The Forensic Blog.