Gambling addict paralegal stole £438,000 from law firm

A paralegal addicted to gambling has been jailed for stealing £438,000 from a law firm. Paul Young, 38, of Middleton, simply directed interim payments intended for innocent road accident victims into his bank accounts.

A court heard the victim of his fraud was his Manchester-based employer, Berrymans Lace Mawer (BLM), which specializes in defending car claims on behalf of insurance companies.

Young, a father-of-two who earned £24,500 a year as a paralegal on the firm’s ‘volume engine team’ in Manchester city centre, was caught making a payment to the bad beneficiary, but the bosses didn’t realize it was his account and dismissed it as a “simple mistake”. This meant he could continue to defraud his employer, taking advantage of “flaws in their system”, a court heard.

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He joined the firm in January 2016 and said on his resume that he had worked “generally in industry” but failed to mention that he had worked for another firm, Pro-Law, the court heard. .

Had BLM been able to verify the candidate’s performance at Pro-Law, his chances of being hired would have been “very slim”, prosecutor Henry Blackshaw told Manchester Crown Court, although details of his time there bottom was not revealed.

Young has dealt with lawyers claiming personal injury and vehicle damage from insurance giant Aviva, which in turn “trusts the authenticity of the claim”, Mr Blackshaw told the court. Aviva had “delegated” claims management to BLM.

Young worked on a nascent claims management system at BLM called Blue Prism, replacing the previous practice of sending the insurer an email requesting a payment that an Aviva official would have to approve, the court heard. .

Mr Blackshaw said: ‘There has been no automation of payments but, in the absence of a system to verify the authenticity of bank details against those of the claimant’s solicitors, requests for payments made by Paul Young were accepted by Aviva without any Similarly, at BLM, there was no verification of payment requests against records Mr. Young was required to act with honesty, as expected of all BLM employees Neither BLM nor Aviva verified the veracity of payment requests.

The prosecutor continued: “While Mr. Young was ultimately to be caught off guard when there was a final reconciliation of monies received from Aviva on file, he will have known that it would be some time before the fraud occurred. be detected, due to the delay in dealing with these claims, as many claims have been delayed, for example while awaiting medical evidence or other expert documentation.”

BLM officials became aware of “possible problems” in November 2018 when it emerged Young was behind the £5,099 payment which was paid into the wrong bank account. The defendant was disciplined and given a final warning although BLM’s investigation did not verify the beneficiary’s account, the court heard.

Paul Young was jailed at Manchester Crown Court

The defendant told his bosses he suffered from mental health issues and ‘vigorously denied anything other than a mistake’, Mr Blackshaw said. Young was ‘given the benefit of the doubt’ for what BL considered a ‘simple mistake’.

The prosecutor said: “However, it was later discovered that the bank account into which it had been paid was in fact controlled by Mr Young. This only came to light following further fraud .”

In June 2019, BLM officials realized Young was abusing Aviva’s automated payment system to transfer funds to his own bank accounts rather than those of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

This followed a personal injury claim that BLM had been asked to defend when Young’s line manager needed to get involved when new evidence was provided. Some £32,000 had already been paid by Aviva in a series of payments, but the claimant’s solicitors said they had not received the money.

BLM launched another investigation and determined that the money went into Young’s accounts, including the one his salary was sent to.

Mr Blackshaw told the court: ‘The suspect was found to have made numerous fraudulent claims in this manner to Aviva, in each case changing the bank details of the claimant’s solicitor to those of one of his own accounts, so that payment would be made directly to him.”

Young had arranged 116 payments on his accounts totaling £437,598.79 over a three-year period which BLM had to repay to Aviva, the court heard. He was sacked on June 25, 2019, following a disciplinary hearing which he did not attend.

Mr Blackshaw said: ‘Funds were used on gambling websites, third party transfers were made and usual living expenses.

Homeless Liam Henry was also jailed for two years and two months after pleading guilty to acquiring, using or possessing criminal property

The court heard the defendant paid some of the money, almost £185,000, to a partner, Liam Henry. Both men were arrested but made no comment during police questioning.

Tom Wainwright, defending Young, said the degree of planning was “not the most sophisticated” and he said his client was “forced to be taken”. Young had two children, ages 12 and 15, and a partner who had “health issues”, the attorney told the court.

Young, he said, suffers from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Judge Timothy Smith balked at the suggestion the defendant suffered from PTSD, saying the youngster had not suffered “a life-threatening event which is a prerequisite” for such a diagnosis.

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Mr Wainwright said his client owed money to “loan sharks” but managed to repay BLM £30,000 following the sale of a property. He said: “He is receiving help for his gambling addiction. He is no longer gambling. The court can be reassured that he will no longer appear in court.”

In jailing Young for three years and three months, Justice Smith told the defendant he had “an obligation to uphold the law” as a paralegal. He added: “This offense amounts to a very serious breach of trust placed in you by your employer.”

The defendant “siphoned off money that should have gone into the accounts of the plaintiffs’ attorneys,” the judge continued.

Justice Smith said: “Sophisticated? No. It was inevitable that at some point your fraudulent activities would come to light and they did. The fraudulent activity, however, continued for a considerable period of time before to finally be detected. The problem is that people have rather taken the view that you were not dishonest.”

The accused “took advantage of flaws in his system,” the judge said. His co-defendant Henry “effectively laundered the money” for Young, he said. The court heard that Henry “inferentially” returned that money to Young. Henry claimed he only kept £40,000 for himself.

Young, of Bamford Avenue in Middleton, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation in obtaining £437,598.79 from Aviva. He had no previous convictions. Henry, 37, of Holcombe Close in Kearsley, who admitted acquiring criminal property, was jailed for two years and two months. He had previous convictions for assault and drunk driving.

The court heard that Greater Manchester Police initially were unwilling to attempt to recover the money through the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) as BML had mounted its own civil action to recover the money . Following concerns expressed by Mr. Blackshaw, the judge agreed to initiate POCA proceedings.