Law firm worker jailed for £634,000 charity fraud from estates of deceased

A law firm employee has been sentenced to four years in prison for orchestrating a £634,000 fraud by siphoning charity donations from the estates of deceased individuals over a 13-year period.

Laurna Porter, 68, abused her position as a probate manager to misappropriate funds intended for charities, including Great Ormond Street Hospital and Cancer Research.

Operating across two different solicitors’ firms, Porter manipulated the administration of wills to embezzle money from 23 estates between 2006 and 2018. She wrote cheques to her accomplice, Julie Atkins, 68, disguising the fraudulent payments as gifts or debt settlements. Specifically targeting estates without close relatives, Porter aimed to avoid suspicion regarding the missing funds.

Porter pleaded guilty to charges of fraud by abuse of position and money laundering, resulting in a four-year jail term. Atkins, also implicated in the scheme, admitted to money laundering and received a 30-month prison sentence.

Specialist CPS prosecutor Anamarie Coomansingh described the fraud as “calculated” and emphasized Porter’s breach of trust and legal obligations. Families and friends of the deceased were left distressed by the exploitation of their loved ones’ estates.

The fraudulent activities came to light when Porter changed law firms, triggering suspicion over a £5,000 payment to Atkins. A subsequent investigation uncovered the extent of the deception, with cheques traced back to Porter via Atkins.

The CPS highlighted the detrimental impact of the fraud on various beneficiaries, including animal charities, hospices, and the relatives of the deceased. Glaisyers Solicitors, where Porter was employed at the time of discovery, confirmed her dismissal and clarified that the majority of the misconduct occurred during her tenure at Dewes Sketchley Solicitors.

Glaisyers Solicitors of Tamworth, at which Ms Porter was employed, is an independent firm and has no links to any similarly named firms, including Manchester-headquartered Glaisyers Solicitors LLP, which trades as Glaisyers ETL.

Porter has already repaid a portion of the stolen funds, with further efforts underway to recover additional assets. Additionally, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has barred Porter, a non-qualified lawyer, from future employment in law firms.

Read more stories

Join over 6,000 wills and probate practitioners – Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Friday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.