Thursday, 22 January 2015

Solicitor Re-Wrote Will To Cheat Charity For The Blind Out Of £200,000

A disgraced solicitor, who doctored a will to try and get away with defrauding a blind people's charity out of £200,000 to pay his tax bill, has been jailed for two years and eight months.

Richard Caplan, 62, who has already been struck-off, was the trusted executor of pensioner Marjorie Withey's estate, which bequeathed the sum to the National Library for the Blind (NLB).

The father-of-two, of Falcon Close, Northwood, Middlesex pleaded guilty at Harrow Crown Court to defacing a will between December 14, 2009 and February 7, 2013.

He also pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position between the same dates, namely acting against the financial interests of the NLB and converting criminal property, namely £204,676 by paying-off personal debts.

The once respected lawyer ran Caplan Solicitors, of Tyburn Lane Harrow, but the firm "crumbled under financial pressures" during the property market downturn of 2008-2009.

Prosecutor Mr. David Markham told the court Mrs Withey died on December 14, 2009 and Caplan was required to split the residue of her estate 50/50 between the NLB and another charitable organisation.

Their share should have amounted to almost £305,000, but Caplan simply wrote them a cheque for £101,083 and continued to be evasive, failing to return calls or answer letters as the charity sought a copy of the original will.

Eventually the solicitor sent them the doctored version in August, 2012.

"The will he sent bore the same signatures as Mrs Withey's original, but instead of a 50/50 split it bequeathed six equal shares.

"Mr. Caplan clearly massaged the figures so it would appear the NLB received their correct share."

The charity were unhappy and reported the lawyer to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), who passed on the information to the police, who arrested Caplan at his home on February 7, 2013.

They found evidence he paid the charity's money to HMRC to settle his tax bill in October, 2010.

"His business was primarily based on property, but crumbled under financial pressures," said Mr. Alisdair Smith, defending.

"He paid it to the revenue to sort the situation out and did not put it to lifestyle use. His firm, his life's work was closed down and financially he has nothing left.

"The family home was sold and his share was used to satisfy his creditors as far as possible at the rate of thirty pence in the pound.

"His working life is over and he understands he has to go to prison. He's an ordinary family man, who has done something wrong."

Judge Graham Arran told him: "What you did was in serious breach of the trust the public have in solicitors and that is a serious aggravating offence.

"Not only did you pocket the money, but you altered documents and you were evasive over a lengthy period of time."

The SRA's compensation scheme paid the NLB the money they were owed and confiscation proceedings against Caplan have now begun and he will be produced back in court on May 25 for the first stage of the financial investigation.

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