Jailed for three years
A paralegal who stole nearly half a million pounds from a national law firm to fund his gambling addiction has been jailed for over three years.
A court heard how Paul Young, 38, “took advantage of flaws” in BLM‘s system to make 116 payments totalling £437,599 into his bank accounts over a three-year period.
Manchester Evening News reports that the paralegal joined the firm’s Manchester office in early 2016 and dealt with solicitors who were making personal injury and vehicle damage claims to insurance heavyweight Aviva.
Father-of-two Young used a relatively new claims management system at BLM that replaced the old practice of sending an email to the insurer requesting a payment, which in turn would require approval from Aviva.
Aviva reportedly accepted the payment requests without any checks, while BLM seemingly did not cross-reference the requests against the relevant case files.
In October 2016, managers at BLM discovered that Young was responsible for making a payment of £5,099 into the wrong bank account. He was disciplined by the firm but told managers he was struggling from mental health problems and “strenuously denied anything other than an error”.
But it wasn’t until 2019 that the extent of Young’s fraudulent activities were finally exposed, when a line manager became involved in a particular case and discovered £32,000 had already been paid out by Aviva in a series of payments. This despite the claimant’s solicitors insisting they had received no such payments.
BLM subsequently discovered the paralegal had approved six payments between September 2017 and May 2019 into his bank accounts, including one in which the firm paid his salary.
A further investigation found Young had arranged 116 payments to his accounts totalling £437,598.79. He was sacked in the summer of 2019 following a disciplinary hearing he failed to attend.
For the prosecution, Lincoln House Chambers barrister Henry Blackshaw told the court how the money was used on gambling websites and living expenses, while almost £185,000 was transferred to a friend, Liam Henry.
Young’s barrister, Garden Court Chambers’ Tom Wainwright, explained how the paralegal had “been getting support for his gambling addiction” and that “he’s no longer gambling”. He also said his client had managed to repay £30,000 to BLM following the sale of a property.
Young, who admitted fraud by false representation, was jailed for three years and three months. Henry, 37, admitted to acquiring criminal property and was jailed for two years and two months.
In 2020, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) handed Young a section 43 order, effectively banning him from working for law firms.
BLM said in a statement:
“Paul Young was dismissed from BLM when it was established that his actions breached both his contract of employment and the SRA’s Code of Conduct. Mr Young’s conduct was immediately reported to the SRA and to Greater Manchester Police. Following a criminal investigation during which Mr Young pleaded guilty, he has been sentenced to three years and three months. We will always take a hard stance against theft and welcome the outcome. BLM has robust financial procedures in place to prevent any such incidents happening at the firm.”